Is Genetic Testing in Your Future?
Could genetic testing be the future of how life insurance underwriting is done? We’ve been talking about this at Quotacy as everyone from Oprah to the NFL seems to be doing genetic testing these days.
When it comes to our future health, we just might be able to. There has been a lot of buzz around genetic testing lately and it has the life insurance industry as curious as anyone reading the news these days.
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Pigskin DNA and the NFL
DNA testing, which is the same as genetic testing, is really nothing new. It has become a household term in the 21st century with criminal justice TV shows and Maury-esque exposes referring to DNA tests on a daily basis. Even the NFL has jumped on the DNA bandwagon.
The National Football League does a DNA test on the official game balls before each and every game to make sure they are an officially-approved NFL footballs and have not been replaced with tampered pigskins. What? Well, footballs are made from pigskin, and pigskin has DNA since it was living being at one time; so it can be swabbed and tested just like a crime scene investigator would a human blood sample.
Celebrities are also using genetic testing. Some Hollywood royalty are having genetic testing done to see what their likelihood is of having a serious health problem later in life, like cancer or heart disease. These new DNA tests can supposedly tell you the potential health conditions your body holds in its DNA strands.
More recently, a popular trend with African-American celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg, is to have genetic testing done simply to trace their roots and see exactly were their bloodlines came from. The precision of these tests is impressive to say the least.
The gene test for Oprah Winfrey pinpointed the exact spot in Africa where her bloodline began simply by running her DNA through a database. The match came back and it showed her DNA originated from a small group of people in the highlands of Guinea called the Kpelle people.
DNA testing is nothing new but the availability of genetic testing is becoming easier to access and is getting much cheaper for the average person. With companies like 23andMe, a cool startup out of Mountain View, California, you can easily get a detailed DNA test for yourself by going to their website and ordering a kit for $99. It’s very simple. They send you a kit with instructions and you provide a saliva sample and send it back in their pre-paid package. Then they do their thing and provide you your DNA test results in a remarkably short amount of time.
DNA testing is nothing new but the availability of genetic testing is becoming easier to access and is getting much cheaper for the average person.
Is Genetic Testing the Future of Life Insurance Underwriting?
So, if a DNA test can determine your future, at least your health future, can you see why this would make the life insurance companies pay attention?
The goal of an actuary at a life insurance company is to determine how likely you are to die, as terrible as that sounds, also when it might happen and from what disease. As of now, life insurance companies still underwrite applications with actuarial guesses of when they think you will die based on your medical records, family history, and lifestyle.
The amount of time it can take to have an underwriter sift through medical records (not to mention waiting for doctors’ offices to send these records) can leave the client waiting weeks to hear back from the insurance company as to what their final price and risk class will be. A DNA test for determining your risk of dying would be a much faster and cheaper approach if it was accurate.
Currently, if you take an ancestry/DNA test, there are certain companies that will destroy your information afterwards upon request. When you sign up for these tests, there often is an opt-in to share your data with medical researchers and according to Consumer Watchdog, roughly 80% of people who take these tests choose to share their data.
Lower Prices of Life Insurance via Genetic Testing
Genetic testing could be a big win for consumers and the life insurance companies. It could lower the price of life insurance for everyone by increasing the accuracy of underwriting. And, it could decrease the time that going from quote to coverage takes.
But, despite these upsides, there are emotional downsides to genetic testing. Do we really want to know our future? Do we want to know now that we have a high probability of getting cancer at 45 or a heart attack at 60? Maybe.
If we can make lifestyle changes now to prevent future illness, that’s helpful to know. For certain medical issues, like high cholesterol or diabetes, if life insurance underwriters see you are aware of the problem and are managing the condition well, it can be beneficial to you during the approval process.
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About the writer
Director of Inbound Marketing
Kate is Director of Inbound Marketing working on business strategy, SEO, and writing for QuotacyLife. Kate's gift is explaining complex financial planning and life insurance topics in a simple and direct way to help families become more financially savvy and empower themselves to make wise choices. She works with Quotacy's underwriters to ensure the financial tips shared in her blogs are spot-on and truly helpful to anyone researching the ins and outs of life insurance online. If you would like a topic to be covered in our blog, leave Kate a comment below or connect with her on LinkedIn.