Ancestry sites like 23andMe, Ancestry and Helix are selling DNA data to life insurers who use the data to set premiums.
Disgruntled consumers may want to spit on their insurance company, but nowadays insurers are too happy to oblige. Insurers, along with drug companies and medical research industries are leveraging DNA data from ancestry sites to inform their business and set pricing.
Today there are several ancestry companies operating on the same, seemingly simple business model. You pay a fee, supply a saliva sample, then receive information on your ancestry. The DNA data has added value in many industries.
Using genetic information has legal limitations. Federal guidelines prevent health insurers from using genetic info to make insurance coverage decisions. However, there are no federal laws preventing companies selling life and long-term care from using genetic information. Many insurance companies have formed relationships with ancestry companies to use the data.
How can genetic data affect a life or long term policy? Genes are not sole predictors of disease and depending on the disease, couple with environmental factors to varying degree. However, genes do play a role in 9 out of 10 leading causes of death in the US, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and more.
Users are advised to carefully read privacy policies before signing up on ancestry sites. Consumers using sites like 23andMe, Helix and Ancestry do allow some control over their data. Some ancestry companies allow users to remove their data ex post facto.
There is disagreement over whether disclosing genetic data disproportionately benefits the consumer or insurer. Whether good genetic information would lower premiums remains to be seen. Some experts claim many factors go into life insurance premiums and premiums will never be overreliant on genetic data.