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Insurance rules under commission scrutiny

The Human Rights Commission has taken its review of the rules around life insurance a step further and is asking the industry a number of questions including whether there should be a new set of rules around genetic testing.

Wednesday, November 8th 2006, 7:18AM
In a recent discussion paper it noted that recent advances in genetic testing raise significant human rights issues for insurers.

In New Zealand there is a voluntary moratorium on genetic testing. An insurer is entitled to know the results of a test if an applicant for insurance has taken one, but is not allowed to ask them to take a test as part of their application process.

The commission is asking whether this is satisfactory or if other measures should be adopted. Among these is the idea that there could be legislation prohibiting or controlling the use of genetic tests or genetic information obtained in clinical or research tests.

Another idea is to have an independent body to control the use of predictive genetic tests in insurance which would rule on the actuarial relevance of those tests.

The commission is also addressing the rules around who insurers can cover.

Currently life insurers have an exemption from the act and can discriminate by offering different terms to people if there is actuarial or statistical data to back up the decision.

If no such data is available the insurer can base its decision on reputable medical or actuarial advice or opinion.

However there is some confusion over what is reasonable, which the commission wants to clarify.

Other issues raised in the paper are whether reinsurers should remain exempt from the Human Rights Act and how mental illness is treated by insurers.

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