If you expect to apply for life insurance, disability insurance or long-term-care insurance, think twice about getting a DNA test.
DNA testing has become so inexpensive in recent years that many people are having it done as a precaution—or simply out of curiosity. For $250 or less, companies such as 23AndMe (23AndMe.com) and Color Genomics (Color.com) will analyze a sample of your saliva and tell you about your heritage and/or your health. Example: Some people learn that they have inherited genes that put them at high risk for breast, ovarian, colorectal or prostate cancer. If knowing this inspires them to make anticancer lifestyle changes or to be checked for cancer more frequently, it could help them stay healthier.
But if a DNA test reveals that you have a genetic predisposition to a serious health problem, you may be required to inform life, disability and long-term-care insurers of this when you apply for coverage. (Genetic testing that explores only your ancestry and not your health should not create this problem.) And insurance companies may respond by imposing higher premiums or declining to cover you at all. The federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act bars health insurers from requesting the results of genetic tests or discriminating against applicants based on such tests, but this law does not apply to other forms of insurance.
What to do: If your doctor advises you to get a genetic test because of a specific, pressing medical concern, do so. But if there is no pressing health concern and you intend to apply for life, disability or long-term-care insurance in the future, delay DNA testing until after you have been approved…or choose a test that reports on your ancestry only and not on your health.