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Strain on Insurers

Direct-to-consumer genetic tests that can tell people whether they've inherited variants that increase their risk of developing dementia and similar conditions may overload long-term care insurers, the New York Times reports.

The US Food and Drug Administration recently gave 23andMe the go-ahead to market its health risk tests, including ones for Parkinson's disease, late-onset Alzheimer's disease, and celiac disease.

Pat Reilly tells the Times that after learning she had higher chances of developing Alzheimer's disease, she "decided I'd best get long-term care insurance."

But, the Times writes that if everyone who learns they have such risk-conferring variants takes out long-term care insurance, that'll drive the price up for everyone, even people at low risk. Indeed, Harvard Medical School's Robert Green has found that people who learn they have the risk-conferring ApoE4 gene variant are some six times more likely to buy long-term care insurance than people without it, it adds.

As results from DTC genetic tests don't show up in medical records, it's up to the purchasers to disclose their status and many insurers worry that people won't, the Times says. "All the insurance companies are concerned about this," Green says.

Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, adds that "[t]here is a question about whether the industry is in a death spiral anyway" and that "[t]his could make it worse."