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Blackstone’s Massive DNA Database: Could It Affect Your Insurance?

A Delaware bill would bar the use of genetic testing to set rates.

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Articles, Healthcare, Opinion

Delaware legislators don’t want Ancestry.com sharing your DNA with insurance companies. Given who owns the enormously popular genetic testing site, it’s little wonder they’re concerned.

“A new bipartisan proposal in the Delaware Assembly would prohibit insurance companies from accessing DNA testing results from their customers to set premium rates,” The Center Square reported February 16. “The legislation being considered by the House Committee on Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce would block insurance companies from using genetic testing results as a basis for life insurance company rates.”

The bill’s main sponsor is a Republican, and his reasoning for crafting the bill is simple enough. “Often, those [DNA] reports contain a disclaimer stating that knowledge of what you are about to receive may affect your life insurance,” state Rep. Jeff Spiegelman said. “I don’t think it’s fair that the information you received through a test you paid for can be used by your life insurance company to boost your rates or deny you coverage.”

“Several states, including Florida, Illinois and South Dakota, bar genetic testing companies from sharing an individual’s genetic test information with insurance companies without written consent, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,” The Center Square notes.

Exciting Corporate Synergy With Your DNA?

A look at Ancestry.com’s corporate spider web reveals how easy it would be for insurers to tap into the genealogy firm’s database.

Ancestry is owned by private equity behemoth Blackstone, which purchased the company in August 2020. “Looking ahead, in collaboration with Blackstone, we will continue to leverage our unique content, powerhouse consumer brand and technology platform to expand our global Family History business while bringing to life our long-term vision of personalized preventive health,” Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis said at the time of the sale.

Explications on attractive new opportunities to “leverage” Ancestry’s “unique content” in order to “expand” business sounds particularly ominous when you consider Blackstone’s hefty presence within the insurance industry.

GettyImages-1233179583 ancestry

(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

A page on the Blackstone corporate website titled “Insurance Solution” details the implications involved.

Blackstone manages a staggering $192 billion in assets for insurers, the company reveals.

“We combine insurance industry expertise with Blackstone’s leading investment products to seek compelling returns for insurance companies and our investors,” the write-up continues.

Risk management is touted as a special talent Blackstone can offer insurance providers.

“We offer flexible capital solutions to insurance company partners and aim to deliver Blackstone’s leading investment expertise and insurance optimized products to our clients based on each insurer’s unique objectives, outlook and risk profile,” the corporation asserts.

When it comes to insurance, of course, the risk management involves real human beings.

Industry: We Just Want to Offer the Lowest Rate

“Federal law prevents health insurers from using genetic information in underwriting policies and in setting premiums, but the prohibition doesn’t apply to life, disability or long-term care coverage,” the Washington Examiner notes.

The insurance industry has stated that it doesn’t find sites like Ancestry to be a valuable source of information in setting rates.

“Those things have nothing to do with mortality or your health,” Dr. Robert Gleeson, a former medical consultant for the American Council of Life Insurers, told Forbes in October 2022. “We don’t know the reliability of that information or the accuracy of the test.”

Yet Gleeson wants consumers to know they have nothing to fear from DNA testing.

“Many people are afraid that life insurers want to use genetic tests to rate or decline applicants,” Gleeson adds. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth. Life insurers want to sell as much life insurance to as many people as possible at as low of a rate as possible.”

The Forbes Life Insurance “Advisor” article is noticeably friendly to the insurance industry but still warns consumers to use caution when submitting to commercial DNA testing.

“If you’re considering buying life insurance and you’re also thinking about doing an at-home genetic test from a direct-to-consumer provider such as 23andMe, apply for and buy life insurance coverage first,”  the financial news site observes. “There’s no need to raise red flags if you don’t have a negative family medical history.”

Such scenarios are precisely what Delaware legislators are trying to stop.

“Under the proposal, life insurance companies would not be allowed to ‘request, require, or purchase’ information obtained from a direct-to-consumer genetic testing business,” The Center Square writes. “The measure would further ban using the information for ‘canceling a policy, setting premiums, or paying claims without additional actuarial justification.’”

In the days of private equity cross-ownership on a broad scale, there is more reason than ever for American consumers to be aware of the volume of highly personal information they give to large corporations and how that material may be applied in consumer transactions.

Read More From Joe Schaeffer

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