When DNA and Insurance Collide


Publish Date:
March 2, 2008
Publication Title:
The New York Times
Op-Ed or Opinion Piece
  • Henry T. Greely, When DNA and Insurance Collide, The New York Times, March 2, 2008.


In response to Amy Harmon’s article “Fear of Insurance Trouble Leads Many to Shun or Hide DNA Tests”:

Your article about insurance and DNA illustrated nicely the existence and harmful effects of fear of genetic discrimination, but it may have inadvertently made matters worse.

Ninety percent of Americans cannot be affected by genetic discrimination, either because they get health coverage in ways that do not allow health risks to be considered (Medicare, Medicaid, employer coverage) or because they can’t afford health insurance at all.

Only about 15 million Americans get insurance in ways that could lead to genetic discrimination, but more than 40 states have forbidden discrimination in that kind of insurance. Many states have also outlawed genetic discrimination in employment, adding to the unclear protection of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act will provide clear and broad protection when it passes. People should not avoid medically important genetic tests because of unrealistic fears of discrimination.

And we all must be careful not to worsen the harm caused by those fears.