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Could insurers use life expectancy blood tests?

Could insurers use life expectancy blood tests?

Category: Insurance

Updated: 16/05/2011
First Published: 16/05/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

News of a new blood test that can accurately predict life expectancy has led to speculation that insurers could adopt the method to calculate premiums.

Existing guidelines from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) appears to rule out such a use of the new tests, however.

The blood test has been developed by Spanish firm Life Length, and will measure
people's telomeres, which are thought to be linked to how long we live.

The test is to go on sale to the general public in the UK later this year and will cost £435.

Such a breakthrough in measuring life expectancy has sparked speculation that insurers could use the new method to help them with life insurance quotes.

It is possible that if firms were allowed to use the tests as a guide, people with short telomeres – thought to be linked to a lower life expectancy – could find themselves with high premiums or struggling to find cover at all.

However, an ABI guide for the public seems to suggest that insurance firms would be forbidden from demanding such information from consumers.

Under the ABI's 'Genetic tests and insurance: what you need to know' guide for consumers, it states:

  • Insurers will not ask you to takes a predictive genetic test in order to get insurance
  • You can apply for up to £500,000 for life insurance, £300,000 for critical illness insurance or income protection insurance or income protection insurance paying annual benefits of £30,000 without having to tell the insurer of any predictive genetic test you have previously taken.

In fact, the ABI document says that the only predictive test that must be declared to insurance companies is for Huntington's Disease for life cover worth more than £500,000.

The ABI has not yet confirmed whether or not the new tests could be allowed to be used by its member firms, and the body could not be contacted for comment.

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