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UK Insurance Co. Admits Using Genetic Screening 184

Posted by michael
from the honesty-is-the-worst-policy dept.
Cletusthesjyokel writes "Interesting read on how one of Britain's biggest insurance companies admitted to using unapproved genetic screening when deciding when to give coverage or not. Makes you think."
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UK Insurance Co. Admits Using Genetic Screening

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    First The UK then Slashdot, it's only a matter of time untel your karma is determened by your DNA

    CmdrTaco performs DNA screening of a new user:

    % grep FIRSTPOST dnasample
    GCATTCAGFIRSTPOSTCGATAGCAGTTGCAGGCTTACG

    "...sorry dude, your posts start at -1."

    ---

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone remember that early episode of "Sliders" where they go to "lawyer world". When ordering a hot dog, the proprietor demands a signed waiver and a certification that one's cholesterol level is below 150, yada yada yada.

    When they came for the smokers to deny them coverage and raise their insurance rates, I didn't care because I did not smoke.

    s/smoke/drink alcohol/g

    They'll get to fast food eaters, non exercisers, non-condom users, etc. Still don't give a shit about smokers having their rights taken away?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    how is it permissible to discriminate for car and life insurance on the basis of sex, but not other genetic factors?

    Actually it's quite easy to get an "F" printed next to "sex" on your driver's license. You just need to shave clean, put a wig, wear some imaginative clothing, and talk one octave higher during the driving test. It may feel ackward on the spot, but you save on insurance for the rest of your life. Not that I did it or anything, but it looks like it could work. My wig investment was completely reimbursed after the fifth bill, which is nice.

  • When I turned 25 last year, my rate dropped $55 a month. Same thing happened with my friends when they turned 25. Yes, we're comparing anecdotal evidence, but it does show that neither of our claims can be taken alone as evidence of a trend.

  • You argument is only against socialized medicine, not universal coverage. This is a common mixup that often confuses issues.

    You can have free-market medicine catering to a publicly-funded insurance system. The competition will be there, both on the care side and the insurance side.

    To me, the point is that the more insurance companies are able to predict, the more important it becomes for society to step up and help those with unfortunate genetic dispositions. This is a moral responsibility.
    Lars
    __

  • I agree with you on your thoughts on socialized versus free-market health systems. The idea of non-profit insurance companies is however something I'd recommend not spending any energy on.

    Here in Sweden, cooperative non-profit initiatives is an old idea, still with a large trusting following. In particular, we have a large cooperative insurance provider (non-health care, since we have socialized medicine and insurance here) that is basically indistuingishable from other companies. In fact, they have a pretty bad reputation with some people. The only reason they are so big is probably through momentum and people thinking that a cooperative business (I believe it is owned through unions and consumer organisations) must be good. This is not true!

    The point is that in an efficient and functioning market, as I believe the insurance industry is in most countries, there is no point in having a non-profit provider. History suggests that they are not more efficient and competative than other companies.

    Lars
    __
  • it's bigger than just a business risk factor.
    Insurance stands to create such a separation
    between the haves and the have-nots that it
    could be a measure of the relative values of
    people's lives. So if someone is insurable,
    is their life more valuable than someone who
    is not insurable? Suddenly the notion of equal
    rights for all seems even further from the actual
    case.

    Does a genetic predisposition to sickle cell anemia cause one to be denied health insurance?
    Why would society even begin to entertain the
    argument that it is not?

    Does it eventually bring our society to a level
    where only the rich have the privilege of having
    the resources to save their lives when the time
    comes? I thought progress meant we should move
    away from class separation, not straight towards
    it.

    I realize that luxuries like insurance are privileges not rights, but if there is an elite
    class that can take healthcare for granted and
    the rest that can go die in the stairwell, what
    does that say about us as a civilization?

    When the healthcare industry sees that it can
    schedule its market based only upon the means of
    those who have access to it, the poor suffer.
    We've seen this with HMOs. There are enough people with the means to get healthcare that
    the providers feel justified in considering "the rest" to be statistically insignificant.

    That those millions of poor statistically insigificant sods don't rise together and
    take control is a daily surprise for me...

    One outrage after the next. There will be a
    reckoning sooner or later. The huddled masses
    might not have noticed any of the travesties
    that raise our collective blood pressure here
    on slashdot, but if they keep on, and keep on,
    and keep on doing it, sooner or later it will
    upset the illusion of peace that the poor and
    working poor spend their pathetic miserable lives
    in. Sooner or later, it will take away pay per
    view wrestling. Then you'll see joe sixpack in
    the trailerpark become a revolutionary hero.

    Not before then, though.

  • You can have free-market medicine catering to a publicly-funded insurance system. The competition will be there, both on the care side and the insurance side.
    This will be more costly, because the State (and therefore the taxpaying public) will have to pay more taxes in order for those competing companies to make a profit, and pay for the amount of duplicated overhead.

    --

  • Socialized medicine just doesn't work
    It works perfectly. It's the ONLY WAY to make sure that no one is left behind.

    In Canada, the cost is the same, per capita, as in the USA. Yet, 100% of the population is COVERED.

    The point you bring up is valid, and I've heard some other scary stories about Canada. There are lots of people who have long waits. But Canada has some success stories as well -- I've had friends who've had good experiences with the system. And let's not forget the HMO horror stories we have down here. Maybe there's some solution that can provide better coverage than an existing system.
    It just had been revealed recently that those horror stories were totally false; they have been concocted by the myriad interests that want the universal health care wrecked.

    The fact is that in the USA, plenty of lives have been wrecked by the private health-care system (and I mean by secondary effects, like firing people because they cost the collective insurer too much, or

    --

  • I agree completely. Involving the government denies people the right to seek affordable health care of their choice, because government subsidies make private health care prices sky high. Same thing happened with Universities.
    Complete and total OXDUNG. In Canada, the cornerstone of the public health-care system is the ability of the public to choose your doctor. I'm afraid not many HMOs can say the same down there...

    --

  • A lot of folks in this thread are concerned with the problem of high tech insurance in a free market.

    Here is a succinct summation of the situation: in a free market, both the producers and consumers of insurance have an incentive to try to discover information about the insured, which will give them an edge. Consumers who know they are high risk are inclined to buy insurance, and have an incentive to hide their risk factors. Insurance companies, OTOH, try to ferret out all possible information from the consumers so as to accurately assess their risk.

    With high tech, the situation evolves. To the extent that uncertainty is removed, insurance is no longer viable. At the one side, there are people who are fated to have something bad happen to them. Assuming the information is known, they can never insure. On the other hand, are people that don't have anything bad in their future. They can buy insurance, but they don't need it.

    Of course we are nowhere near the point of being able to predict the future for everyone, and (IMO) we never will be. Large parts of the future are subject to our free wills, and other large parts are chaotic. And so the second result of high tech (of perfectly fated lucky people) is not really a problem. So there will always be insurance, and accidents to be insured against.

    Now I want to talk about the main problem: that of a genetically fated occurance. Note that this can be problematic in different three ways.

    The first is simply that it is unfair. It is unfair that I should die of cancer when I am 40, while you live to be 80. This is unfair, but it is not unjust. Injustice is a product of men's action; and unless we are willing to second guess God himself, all we can say about a person fated to die young is that it is a pity. To claim that personal misfortune gives an enforceable claim to the wealth of others is simply ludicrous. (Though I note that the current PC "victimhood sweepstakes" is an attempt to enshrine this very notion.)

    The other two ways that a person's fatedness can be a problem is if that information is known assymmetrically. If only the insurance companies know it, then they can use it to deny the fated and exploit the healthy. If only the customer knows it, then we have the problem of adverse selection. So it is clear that any information the companies have, they should have to inform you of. Consumers should demand no less.

    But again, back to the situation of uninsurables. The "problem" here is too much information. Many, many people here are saying that such information should simply not be allowed to exist. This is to stick one's head in the sand. That sort of information may be very important to have; i.e. there are very likely genetic risks which can be mitigated if known. So the consumers, at least, will have the information; and therefore they will act on it. And then we have the problem of adverse selection.

    Others are proposing socialism. Socialism does not work, but it might stave off problems for a generation or two. But the reckoning always comes, and you need only to look at eastern europe to know that doing that to your grandchildren is the way of a coward.

    The free market way of handling uninsurables is simple: just let the customers and insurers alone, and they will over time, gradually work out the right solution.

    Now I know that will not satisfy a lot of you, being technocrats and unwilling to let things sit without a plan. So let me just suggest what I think will happen. We need to push back the point of buying insurance contracts to a time when there is true ignorance about outcomes. In the case of some of these genetic things, that may well be before a person is even conceived. That is to say, that prospective parents would insure their children-to-be, relying on the genetic lottery of sex to randomize the outcome enough so that it is sufficiently uncertain to buy insurance.

  • The socialisation of medicine would suffer from the same fundamental problems that affect everything socialist. When you socialize a system, when you remove the competition from the market, all of the people who participate in that system become just another number, just another file to be processed from point X to point Y, nothing special. You have no recourse against the system, because for socialism to succeed, the free market options are usually removed.

    This is what has happened to all of the socialized health care systems to date...they don't improve because they don't HAVE to improve. They have no competition, they don't have to worry about funding, and they know that the systems users have no other options, so there's no incentive to work harder. In the U.S, bad hospitals that don't advance go out of business. In Canada, the UK, Mexico, and all the other countries with socialized health care, the bad hospitals carry on because their funding can't be cut. THIS is why people come to the U.S. from all over the world to get their medical care, and it's why I don't understand the push towards socialized medicine here.

    True story: A friend of my dads is a Canadian citizen, and he had made an appointment with his doctor because of some recurring light headedness. After waiting two months for an appointment to see his physician, the MD ordered a CT scan...but he was informed that he'd have to wait three more months because there weren't enough machines and the appointment list was rather long. A month later, while in Sacramento on business, he passed out at the wheel of his car and was rushed to the hospital. The CT scan that they immediately ran on him revealed a benign tumor at the base of his skull which was compressing one of the major arteries to the brain. They performed immediate surgery and he was fully healed in a matter of weeks. If not for free-market medicine that man would have been dead at 42, and there are THOUSANDS of others just like him. Socialised medicine just doesn't work.
  • In Canada, the cost is the same, per capita, as in the USA. Yet, 100% of the population is COVERED.
    And yet the quality of that coverage is subpar. To me, a healthcare system that increases the number of people covered by decreasing the quality of that service is unacceptable. When you nationalize a system like medicine and subject it to needless government budget fights and cutbacks, the quality of service is BOUND to suffer.

    t just had been revealed recently that those horror stories were totally false; they have been concocted by the myriad interests that want the universal health care wrecked.
    The guy in the story above is an old college buddy of my dads, is now 50 years old, and lives in Edmunten(sp?) Canada. I still remember how spooked my dad was that someone "so young" could come so close to dying from something so routine. I can't attest to whether or not most of them are true, but I can assure you that this one is.

    The fact is that in the USA, plenty of lives have been wrecked by the private health-care system
    I actually agree with you there. I never said that the system couldn't use some work, only that socialisation isn't the answer. I'd point you to Californias public/private partnership used in the Medi-Cal program (public health insurance for low and zero income families). The system essentially works like this: you pick an insurance company from a short list of approved providers, and the state foots the bill. The only expense to the low-income family is the occasional $5 copay, and they are covered just like they would be under any other private health plan. My sister, a struggling college student with a three year old kid, has been using the system for several years now without a problem. Even though she has essentially zero income, she gets timely and immediate medical care and checkups for both herself and her son, Perhaps, instead of bantering on about knocking the foundations out of this system and building a new one, you should just look at fixing the problems. Californias system works well, so why not push YOUR state to adopt a similar system?

    Oh, and LOL @ all the people wishing me death and dismemberment. I've always loved how many socialists would rather get personal than actually argue the merits of the system they're promoting.
  • Statistics used for ratemaking are no more than a few years old. There is no data from even the 1980s underlying today's insurance rates.

    Face it, young men get in more accidents than young women and the ones they do get into cause more damage.
  • And the economic games involved in this sort of thing -- not to mention the literal life and death nature of it -- are exactly the reason why health insurance problems shouldn't be solved by "the free market".

    I begin to think that state sponsored health insurance is the most humane choice. Possibly not the most ruthlessly effecient, but most humane.

    --
  • I'm colorblind. That's a genetic condition.

    Lucky you. We can only hope that your condition ends up spreading to certain sections [slashdot.org] of society.

  • I think you're missing the point of insurance - to spread risk among a pool. The insurance company is already guaranteed to make a profit - by definition, they charge more than they expect to pay out, and over a large group, death rates are very, very predictable.

    Right to know? Where'd you come up with that concept?
  • No company willingly reduces its profits. Here's how it happens in spite of their desires:
    • Company finds new way to cut its costs.
    • Its cost/profit curve has shifted so that the company makes the most money by cutting cost a little and outselling the competition.
    • If the other companies cut their costs in a similar manner, then can regain some market share.
    • If not, then they continue to lose market share to the innovator.
    • Eventually the innovator either faces competition as efficient, or it has a monopoly.
    • It cannot raise its prices, however, because the other competitors will come back. Its monopoly profits are naturally limited by its less efficient competitors.
    This process takes time, and companies can make use of this to make large profits. That's acceptable, though, because government takes time to deal with this process as well. There's no magic bullet you can fire to kill the huge profits. Only free and unhindered competition can stop excessive profits in the long run.
    -russ
  • Insurance spreads risk over people whose level of risk is identical, or as identical as the insurance company can make it. NOT over the largest number of people.

    This is exactly what I meant when I said that "people" (more specifically, you) are confused. You want insurance to be a combination of risk dispersal and wealth redistribution. The more it does the latter, the less it can do the former. But the former serves a useful societal purpose. If you want to redistribute wealth, go ahead, get out a gun, and do it. But don't ruin the value of insurance doing it!
    -russ
  • You are confusing wealth redistribution with risk disperal. If you do the first, you cannot do the second. And yet the second is of value to society.
    -russ
  • Yes, you don't know as much about your risk as the insurance company knows. Other insurance companies do, though. That's why we need a free market for insurance -- so that all the excess profits get competed away.
    -russ
  • 14 responses (as of this moment). Some of them agree, but some do not. Notice how I said that some people are confused? Those people expressed their confusion, in paragraph after paragraph. Insurance is for things you can't predict. It's for spreading risk around among groups that share equal risk. If there is some information that can be used to divide the groups further, then it should be used, because it will make the insurance more fair.

    Now, as for the problem of genetic testing, you could spread that risk around by parents purchasing insurance for their child before it was born. So yes, the parents get genetically tested, however that can just tell you what risk pool you get into. You still have a risk, and if you're likely to have a child with predictably high medical bills, then perhaps you should reconsider having that child.

    But really, this is only a short-term problem. Before too long, we'll be able to repair genetic damage, and prevent genetically-linked diseases. And by then, opponents of the future will be opposing *those* measures as well.
    -russ
  • That's all fine and dandy but the problem is that insurance is not really optional anymore. Unless you are bill gates nobody can afford a major medical procedure in the united states. Even a simple birth with no complications can can run over ten thousand dollars. Imagine the cost of a chronic disease like cancer or parkinsons.

    The problem is that the person facing some debilitating disease has no way to pay for it unless they have some insurance, if the insurance will not cover them because of some genetic marker then what do they do? How do they come up a hundred thousand dollars for years of therapy and drugs?

    If the sanctitiy of profits for the insurance companies are paramount how do you propose to deal with people who have a higher then normal chance of getting some disease or another? What do you do with someone who has no coverage, who can not get coverage and who is sick?
  • by kaphka (50736)
    That's all fine and dandy but the problem is that insurance is not really optional anymore. Unless you are bill gates nobody can afford a major medical procedure in the united states.
    These genetic tests determine eligibility for life insurance. The purpose of life insurance is to provide enough cash for your dependents to live on, in the event that you're suddenly not around to be depended upon.

    Most people lose money on life insurance - that's the way the insurance industry works. If you know (or suspect) that you are going to be dying soon, you don't need insurance. You'd be better off planning for it yourself, by saving money, and by trying not to acquire and/or create more dependents.
  • Talk to an actuary sometime (I've had a few insurance professionals for customers over the years.) They're not sloppy with the statistics in the manner you describe.

    -jcr
  • Keep in mind, that insurance companies are in competition with each other, and for that reason they're constantly treading a fine line between pricing low enough to get the business, and pricing so low that they lose money when you drive your Porsche into a tree and end up quadriplegic (Cost: millions) instead of dead (cost: tens of thousands).

    The rates are based on actuarial data gathered for a very long time, which show that single young men are in fact more likely to have expensive accidents than women, or older, married men. (Why? Because over the years they've been gathering the data, more men have had expensive accidents than women.) That's why our premiums are higher, guys. Deal with it.

    -jcr
  • sure I have thoughts on this. how about we use genetic testing for only 2 things, by law:

    -medical purposes: diagnoses, and treatment. only practicing medical personnel (please note: pracicing, not just someone who has a medical degree and works for an insurance company to assess risks) should be able to see it
    -investigation by authorities. This data should be independant from the medical data to protect consumer privacy. This data should never be seen outside established, controlled and monitored authorities.

    Most of all, we need to get rid of the fallacious idea that self-regulation in any way works. It has been shown time and time again that regulation is needed.

    //rdj
  • How? Outlays will stay the same. Even with genetic testing, the SAME number of people will get sick fo whatever disease. So, outlays will remain the same. Income will remain the same for the same reason.

    So, genetic testing won't cause insurance companies to go insolvent as long as they don't decrease their rates.

    But, it goes give them a wonderful excuse to raise the rates on those who are 'genetically inferior', to 'pay for the additional care they will need'. Care that they would have needed anyways before, care that was already covered from income paid by everyone.

    So, to me, it looks more like an excuse to raise profits than anything else. Although, after the long term, it may help keep rates for healthy people low.

    IMHO, I'd rather have roughly the same rates regardless of genetic heritage. It distributes the risk which is what insurance companies are supposed to do. We subsidize each other.

  • Troll feeding time:

    What gets me is that there's an EQUAL number of males and females on the planet, but young males pay much higher rates for car insurance. Of course, they couldn't just make both genders pay the in-between amount, because feminist superiority groups, errr, women's rights groups, would get all pissy.

    I'm sorry. I didn't realise that it was my fault that you have to pay more for car insurance. I feel so guilty now...

    Oh, hang on, maybe it actually has something to do with the fact that males statistically have much higher car accident rates.

    Now, if all the males on the planet other than me were to suddenly all die of unknown causes, and I could prove to them my ability to drive safely, would they lower my rates? Or would they *still* not trust me?

    I have an idea. How about you make a start by driving carefully and bitch at any of your male friends who drive in a reckless manner and eventually the proportion of male car accidents might come down to match the proportion of female car accidents and then the insurance companies will have to lower their prices for men.

    The reason men pay more for insurance is because men tend to be unsafe drivers. If you're annoyed about the amount you have to pay why not blame all the men out there who are driving unsafely, not the women who are driving safely.

  • Where's the difference? You have no more control over your sex than you do the rest of your genome, so how is it permissible to discriminate for car and life insurance on the basis of sex, but not other genetic factors? Just because it takes some fancy testing to determine those factors doesn't change the situation one bit.

    Ok, first off I'd better point out that I actually agree that it's unfair to make young males pay more for insurance just because as a group they have a higher chance of being involved in a serious accident.

    However, the insurance companies aren't just discriminating against males because of some inherited trait that they can't change. They are doing it because of a behavioural trait of a lot of young males, that is, the tendency to drive unsafely.

    Now, this situation could be changed if young males would collectively decide to drive more sensibly. Of course, that fact offers little comfort to those safe drivers who, due to their gender, get lumped in with the unsafe drivers who are driving up the price.

    My point is that the above type of discrimination, while in many ways unfair, isn't really comparable to the idea of upping someone's premium because of a genetic predisposition to a disease that they can't change.

    The latter has nothing to do with behaviour. It really can't be changed. The former, while it looks like genetically based discrimination, is in fact behaviourally based. It's just that the best way the insurance companies have come up with of predicting this behaviour is a genetic method. Not very fair.

    The important difference is that you can actually change the amount you pay in car insurance by changing your behaviour. Granted you'll also have to encourage a lot of other people to change their behaviour. But if the behavioural statistics change then the price difference between men and women will also eventually disappear (maybe not immediately, but once people know that the proportions of accidents for males and females are equal then the insurance companies will have to modify their pricing to reflect this).

  • insurance companies actually commit one of the most basic fallacies associated with statistics

    Oh, I agree totally. It's unfair that all young males should have to pay a higher rate just 'cos some of them drive unsafely.

    The previous poster seemed to be blaming women for the fact that men paid more though, whereas any intelligent person can see that the fault lies with that portion of the male population which drives unsafely.

  • One of the items discussed is charging more for insurance for those people who possess genes that may produce serious illness (sickle cell anemia, skin cancer, etc...) It seems that to be fair, then people with positive traits (e.g. genes associated with low cholesterol or healthy hearts(don't know if these are actual genes, but bear with me) should get insurance discounts. Maybe this would ultimately decrease the insurance rates for everyone...
  • Gattaca

    Media

  • This is just one step further from examining your family history, or asking you for a medical exam, history..

    Insurance is not some kind of a right that we all have to have at an affordable rate. If your genes say that you will probably lose your hair by the time you're 30, it makes sense that you should pay more to insure your hair!

    Why is going into your genes any more invasion of privacy than other types of medical examinations? Just because it was impossible/too expensive until now?


    ----------
  • I have to agree completely. You cannot live in today's world and not happen to notice the stranglehold that insurance companies have on the public. Medical and life insurance can be justified, yes. And as I get older, they are certainly things that I'm going to require.

    HOWEVER, (and this is getting a wee bit offtopic) my main problem is with insurance companies that screw the customer. And they do. Hell, their entire business model revolves around taking people's money and not giving it back. For instance, I was rear-ended in my dad's truck, an accident that I was CLEARLY not even REMOTELY at fault for. And the insurance agent just refused to pay up. (The situation was settled privately, in case you're wondering. And yes, my rates did go up even though the insurance company did absolutely nothing for me.)

    And while we're on the topic of car insurance, I'm just dying to know why it is mandatory in [almost] every state. Why, dammit, why? If I want to drive my car around and run the risk of banging it all up, that's my business. If I run into some poor fool that doesn't have car insurance, that's his problem. Shoulda bought car insurange. But he shouldn't have to go to jail or have his car taken away because of it.

    I've asked a great many people this very question, even a former insurance agent and have yet to get a straight and reasonable answer. Perhaps *someone* can enlighten me.

  • Why hasn't somebody modded this up? Stupid moderators.

    Good question. I had some mod points for this article, but I decided not to use them because I'm a "stupid moderator".
  • by Eil (82413)

    Well, you fail to see that it was actually a money-grubbing corporation that was infringing on human rights, not the government. And as I understood the article, it was some PhDs and the insurance committee that stepped in to put a halt to it. And they were the ones urging government action against genetic discrimination by the insurance company.

    Irony of all ironies...
  • I do live in the UK (in the London area) and I have noticed an accute reduction of police interest in the public over the last ten years.

    Granted we have some ridiculous bills in parliament (the RIP [homeoffice.gov.uk] bill for one) that do appear to infringe on human rights, but considering the amount of times I have been a victim of crime over the last six months (5) I would feel a whole lot safer if there were more Orwellian messures imposed.

    ----------------------------
  • I'm not talking about 'handing more power to the authorities'. I'm talking about having enough police to be able to cope with crime.

    I don't think the government are trying to instill any kind of 'thinking' in me, at the end of the day, the reason there are not enough police is because there are not enough resources, which is due to the fact that there is not enough money being ploughed into crime prevention.

    The reason that there is not enough money being ploughed into crime prevention is because the government's main concern is to stay in power, so they try to make themselves look attractive by reducing tax, investing in the NHS and throwing money down that drain they call 'The Millenium Dome'. Eventually, when the whole population become victims of crime, as I am, maybe the governments priorities will change to reflect this, but in the meantime people like me will have to suffer and more people will die.

    ----------------------------
  • In the U.S. it's simply mortgage insurance - at least until you have paid off 20% of the value of the house when you bought it.
    ----------
  • So then if the insurance company finds something, for example, you are genetically predisposed to a type of cancer, or are already showing signs of having a disease, would they have to inform you of it? Seems to me, if they didn't, and you don't treat it, because you don't know about it, and you DIE, would they be liable?
  • Actually, if all you were concerned about was the price differential in the premiums, the fault also lies with the female population which drives safely. Get THEM to drive unsafely, and bring up the risks so that it is comparable to males!

    :-)

  • [i]What a sick, greedy bastard you are to suggest that insurance company profits are so important that people should be subjected to invasive genetic testing in an attempt to weed out those who might actually need the insurance.[/i]

    To us? Hell no, they're not important. To the insurance companies? You bet your ass they are. They're justified (from a business standpoint) in doing what they're doing.

    Whether it's the right thing morally is quite a different story, but when was the last time you saw a corporation being moral?

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • There is a widespread belief that insurance companies discriminating against someone because they have a genetic predisposition to a particular disease is somehow "wrong", and I don't get WHY.

    So, in the ideal case, the company should analyze your lifestyle, your genetic makeup, everything you do, and charge exactly what you will cost them, plus some fixed percentage of profit. How wonderful! Where can I sign up!

    This is *silly*. The whole point of insurance it to spreak the risk. You don't know if you have some genetic disorder, do you? Maybe your cancer risk is 5% higher than Joe Public. Well, you just don't let them in. I want to hear you repeat that when you've been refused because of some odd defect that you never heard of (or get the option of paying 300%).

    Once these companies are allowed to choose who they want to give insurance to, their point disappears, they shouldn't be allowed to make a profit without a point.

  • I don't like the fact that companies can do genetic testing without the knowledge of the person being tested. Especially for health insurance(I know this topic is life insurance). But if more people thought about life insurance, before getting it, we wouldn't be having this problem on such a large scale.

    A person who is above 60 probably shouldn't have life insurance. There is no reason too. Once a person doesn't have any dependants or no morgage to pay off they should cancel their life insurance policy. Life insurance is made to supplement income in the event of a traggic accident when people are counting on you.

    I'm young, married, with no children,no morgage, and no life insurance. If anything happens to me there is no income to protect. Now, once we buy a house, I will get life insurance to cover the cost of the morgage, for me and my wife. That way if anything happens to either of us, the other still gets to keep the house and doesn't have to worry where the money is going to come from.

    The same applies to children. You get life insurance to supplement income so the living spouse could still live comfortably and put the children through school.

    So I wouldn't worry about genetic testing so much for life insurance purposes (what are your odds of dying under 60?) I would be worried that this will spread into the health insurance sector, then people could not get the care they need at a reasonable cost. That would be traggic.
  • Not only this unfair, it's flat out WRONG.

    It's true that far more accidents per year are caused by male drivers, and this is what the insurance rates are based on. -HOWEVER- This is because men, on average, spend far more time driving. When you actually do the math, you find out that women, on a per kilometer basis, have MORE accidents than men. There was a study done several years ago about this, I wish I had a link.

  • This is actually rather scary. Am I the only person who thinks that the UK is starting to look more and more like a police state ala 1984?

    Actually this is cause for optimism; it's the government stepping in to protect individual rights, and limit the power of corporations, just the sort of thing the government should do.
    --
  • First The UK then Slashdot, it's only a matter of time untel your karma is determened by your DNA


    ________

  • The reason men pay more for insurance is because men tend to be unsafe drivers.

    False. The reason is that men are far more likely to be in an accident. If you look at the statistics involved, (those for my country anyway)

    1) Men are twice as likely to be in an accident as women.
    2) Men drive, per year, 4-5 times the kilometres than women. (Somewhat fewer women in the workforce)

    Conclusion: Men tend to be twice as safe at driving as women tend to be, per kilometre driven. Men are still, however, at a much higher risk of accident because they tend to have to spend far more time on the road, commuting, etc.

    Which means that if you're a women who drives to work, you're fooling yourself if you think statistics suggest you're safer.

    Note that depending on the conditions where you live, even if only slightly more men than women are in the workforce, it can translate into a noticable gender-difference of average kilometres travelled.
    (I assume that other insurers questions also narrow down who is likely to spend little or lots of time on the road.)
    Note also that my stats are at least 2 years out of date, possibly more.

    I'm not sure that driving miles rather than kilometres helps, either :-)
  • I'm curious how libertarians feel about it, as many propose abolishing community/govt healthcare in favour of private insurance, however the logical conclusion of deregulation of private health insurance would be genetically uninsurable people - people who are unable to purchase insurance at all, and thus are denied healthcare for no fault of their own, for no disease they have or are guarenteed to get.

    I know some libertarians support culling the genetically weak, but I prefer to think that they don't speak for libertarianism so much as their own bigotry. (Such a person might claim that anyone who is uninsurable can pay for their own healthcare, and if don't earn enough money to do so, their contribution to society is obviously insufficient to justify their continued existance.)

    But I have difficulty thinking of a highly deregulated free-market solution that does not entail this (though many such solutions appear to be more agreeable on the surface or In Theory).

    The quandry - insurers sell the spreading of risk. Profit-motivated companies can enhance profits by diminishing the risk, while still maintaining the appearance of spreading it. Because they can then offer lower premiums at the expense of the people they reject, market success (consumer popularity) as well as profit margins are improved.

    Or to put it in free market terms, those with insurance are being heavily subsidised by the costs to those denied it, by isolating rather than spreading the risk. No "everyone welcome" insurer could compete, dispite (and because of) the underclass market who can't buy insurance anywhere else.

    Do libertarians feel that insurance should be regulated for the common good, or is there a belief that the free market can somehow make it work, or is there some other opinion? (hopefully not those almost eugenic views)

    My suspicion is that I'll probably think the libertarian view on this matter is insane, but I'm hoping for a nice surprise :-)
  • This (which is my new e-mail sig BTW)...

    We are supposed to be members of a civilization, not pack animals that leave the weak to fend for themselves and die.

    Made me forgive you for this:

    If Linux were a beer, it would be shipped in open barrels so that anybody could piss in it before delivery.

    What can I say? Thank God Linux isn't beer (it's speech, and speech can't be ruined by pissing on it)

  • Eventually the innovator either faces competition as efficient, or it has a monopoly.

    This is where Capitalism meets the wall. What happens (and is happening all over the economy) is that Monopoly is the end of all Capitalist systems. People will argue, Russ will retort by telling me I dont understand economics, but this is what invariably happens from this point:

    Few large players entrench their positions.Form Non-Competitive alliances. (ala MPAA, RIAA, BigThreeAuto).

    These large players effectively raise the barrier to entry in the industry.These 'competitors' set the tone of development, control capital deployment, technological standards, prices, modes of operation, etc etc etc. They essentially become clones of one another. They then collectively hold enough power that they can prevent all challenges to their profit from the outside, be that customer dissatisfaction, government regulation, public protest et al.

    One of two things happens:

    • Innovative Competitors Arrive and are promptly purchased
    • The Industry Leaders Merge -Pure Monopoly (bad product, bad service, 'high' prices, less innovation)

      What most Capitalists always fail to mention during their speeches about the purity of the capitalist competition model is this inevitable end. You only need look around you. Massive corporate bodies abound. In all sectors. They are *very* powerful and are currently altering the political, social and cultural landscape to assure their survival. The WIPO, WTO, FTAA, etc etc are all bodies which purpose is to increase the 'environment' for these parasites to live. The world needs to be a homogenous market where these corporate entities set the terms of 'the deal'.

      It takes money to make money. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Money loves company.

      All trite examples of what Capitalism means. In 'the end' it always comes down to a Ruling Class with all 'the power' (money, votes, and puppet governments).

      As long as Capitalism exists it allows an unfettered method to create a omnipotent Ruling Class.

      If the 'good' of the capitalist system is to be used (efficiency through competition, innovation through competition, etc) it MUST be tempered with responsibility, public ownership, and STRONG ANTITRUST rules. Its all about balance.

      What I would propose is a massive 'splitting of the top 1000 corporate entities' (generally). The working class is empowered through public ownership of all means of production (uh oh - here comes the calls from the McCarthy-ites). And Broad Public accountability and responsibility. The 'rights' of the Corporation disappear, and individuals are held personally responsible for their actions in their work lives.

      We are headed down a very dangerous path right now - Massive Business interest is rolling over anything it likes with the backing of the US Government (and Military) in the relentless pursuit of 'profit'.

      The planet needs new goals. We have conquered material want. Have we corrupted our culture with want and greed - people need new goals.

      Ok - Im done preaching... flamesuit(on).
  • Y'know...

    Frank: Hey Bob, Company XYZ uses genetic screening to find out if you're likely to die from a disease earlier on in life. Let's go apply!

    Bob: Why?

    Frank: Well - if they offer to insure us, we know we aren't going to get sick, and we don't need to buy anything other than accident insurance. If they don't offer to insure us, we'll go to company ABC (they don't do screening) and sign up with them.

    Bob: But won't we have problems because of a "previously known condition"?

    Frank: Nah. Because screening is illegal, there's no way for us to know that we were refused because of some sort of predisposition for disease...

    Bob: I get it now! And once we're insured, we'll ask our insurance company to screen us so we can take preventative action against any possible diseases. We'll get them to pay for gene therapy...

    Frank: Now you're getting it!

  • Greatest nation on Earth? Maybe when you stop letting people die because they're too poor to afford treatment.

    Thats part of what makes it great. I'm not rich, and I could very well die because I can't afford a treatment I need, and I don't have health insurance. But I take responsibility for my self and my life. I don't feel like the government owes me anything, and I don't feel like I should pay for anything that I don't want to. Thats what freedom means, and if it costs me my life, or the life of someone I love, then I think its all worth it.
    -

  • Complete and total OXDUNG. In Canada, the cornerstone of the public health-care system is the ability of the public to choose your doctor.

    But can you choose how much you want to pay for health care? No, I didn't think so. You have no choice, you pay the same thing no matter what, there is no free market, no competition, no choice.
    -

  • You got it, insurance is not a right. Insurance happens when a company wants to place a bet with you regarding some future event. The odds are of course always in their favor, or they would not be able to stay in business. Insurance is a suckers game from the start.

    When the government gets involved in insurance, it destroys the competition, and hence, prices go up, the house can charge people (through taxes) as much money as it needs, and can assume any risk it wants, even if it knows its going to lose out. Inefficiency is created.

    If you selected a hospital and doctor like you selected a car, rather than not being able to comparison shop because of insurance issues, the free market goes out the window. The insured also has the moral hazard in that they don't care how many times they pointlessly go to the doctor, they are not paying for it. This is especially a problem with government health insurance, where there is no co-payment.

    The result? People who don't want to play the insurance gambling game are forced to, because the industry is not market driven anymore, its mostly subsidized, and prices are sky high.
    -

  • The parent post seemed slightly offtopic after I re-read it, so here it my point. To say that insurance companies can't use any means that they want to, to assess risk, involves government interference, and thus, creates inefficiencies, these may be for the favor of the insured, but in the end everyone loses as a society.
    -
  • Uh, genetic testing is a new development in the insurance industry. What you really mean is "the insurance companies will continue paying out more to these high-risk individuals, and your insurance rates will remain the same." Insurance company!=charity organization

    Their goal is to make money by winning bets placed about someone's future. You don't like their game, you shouldn't have to play. With insurance companies letting doctors charge huge amounts, its impossible to NOT play their game. The insurance companies collectively have forced you to use one of their products.

    Sure its monopolistic, but people are too stupid to see the forest for the trees on insurance issues. They want to involve the government, making things even worse.
    -

  • But if a large part of the populace had no access to affordable medical care, simply because they may develop a disease in the future - the Medical community would lose a LOT of business.

    I agree completely. Involving the government denies people the right to seek affordable health care of their choice, because government subsidies make private health care prices sky high. Same thing happened with Universities.
    -

  • It's actually NOT fair. My observations (biased because I'm a male) are that the females I know have been in more accidents than the males -- below a certain age (about 20).

    I suspect that some of the studies that the insurance companies conduct don't draw lines in the right places. And also, that they are guilty of out-n-out BS sometimes. For example, I got told for 3 years that when I turned 25, I'd see a dramatic reduction in premium, seeing as how I was leaving a higher risk group. The month after I turned 25, my premium actually jumped $40 per year.

    I think that genetic discrimination is largely inappropriate. Behavior based is better, because
    it gives people control. There's got to be some better way of doing insurance, though...

    Sometimes I think it might be cool to start a non-profit insurance company -- that is, one whose primary mission is NOT to be a profit center, but to provide good insurance. People would work there because they wanted to part of that mission...

    --
  • Socialized medicine just doesn't work

    The point you bring up is valid, and I've heard some other scary stories about Canada. There are lots of people who have long waits. But Canada has some success stories as well -- I've had friends who've had good experiences with the system. And let's not forget the HMO horror stories we have down here. Maybe there's some solution that can provide better coverage than an existing system.

    One thought is to socialize insurance but NOT medicine. Let individuals/organizations that provide the best service still compete for (and win) the available money. Under such a system, for your story above, maybe three or four enterprising souls realize that if there's such a long line of people waiting for MRIs, THEY can collect the money for doing the scan if they invest in the proper equipment and personell.

    The other thought I've seen that I like is to create some non-profit (but non-state) insurance companies, whose primary mission would be NOT profit for shareholders, but actual maximizing of benefits for customers (while keeping itself alive). You'd think that w/o having to pay dividends to shareholders, they could offer competitive rates and/or better benefits. The beauty of this plan is that anybody with enough capital and philanthropy could start tomorrow. The problem is getting the capital purely of philanthropy....

    There's probably other good ideas. People just have to stop thinking in terms of "free market" vs "government run" solutions.

    --
  • This isn't totally on topic. I'm sorry. This isn't a troll though either. I hate insurance, and insurance companies. Why? Because they are mandatory, at least in the state of Virginia in the US. I know the reason they claim it's mandatory: people who didn't have insurance would get in accidents and the taxpayers would get stuck with the bill. Guess what? with insurance mandatory, EVERYONE PAYS and gee if everyone is paying the taxpayers are STILL paying the bill, except the bill is twice as big. Why does it cost more?

    Very simple, consider two scenarios.
    Scenario 1: you pay $100 a month in insurance. After 3 years with a perfect record you cause a horrible accident and destroy some guy's brand new $45,000 BMW and cause $2000 in damages to your beat up Ford Pinto. However, your insurance company doesn't want to get stuck with the bill so they hire a lawyer and go to court against the other guys insurance company. This does happen in real life, no corperation is going to throw out $50k if it can get that ammount reduced in court. Either it ends up paying less, and the poor guy you hit suffers, or they lose the suit and end up just wasting money on the lawyer. Not only that, but there is the money to pay the insurance adjuster. And the insurance claims rep. And the insurance office secretary. All expenses that would not exist without the insurance system as it is. In the end, you WILL pay back the $50k you lost your insurance company, unless you die first. Chances are you will pay more. A few months after the accident your premium will triple and for the next 20 years it will not go back down.

    Scenario 2, no insurance. You hit a guy, total his $45k BMW and ruin your $2k piece of trash car. Ouch, you MUST pay or else the guy will sue and get the cash directly from your pay, and you will not be able to drive untill the matter is worked out. With no other option you are forced to take out a $47k loan. Luckily you had $5k in the bank, saved money you invested and earned cash on that didn't have to go torwards your insurance premiums since you don't have insurance. You end up with a 10 year loan for $42k at 10% interest. Ouch, that hurts- but do the math, you will be far better off in the end than you would be with insurance. Why? Because you only pay for the damage. You don't pay extra to pay the insurance company's lawyer, you don't pay extra to pay the insurance company employees, and you don't pay extra for the insurance companies profit.

    That is why I hate insurance companies and mandatory insurance. Please feel free to let me know just how wrong I am.
  • I would love to only have insurance for unpredictible things. Unfortunatly, in the state of virginia in the USA everyone has to have insurance to drive a car. You would think if you took the bare minimum insurance, just to cover the supposedly super rare events it would be pretty cheap. Not really, more like $150/month. And that is the cheapest I could find out of 6 companies. Sure, I'm 22 and a male so that raises my rate. But it makes you think. If 1 in 20, now those are pretty good odds for a "super rare" accident, if 1 in 100 cause $100k in damages once a year, the insurance company would still be way ahead. Without considering the fact that the guy causeing the accident is suddenly going to have a $400/month premium. That really doesn't seem right, that would be like a person I work with (my place of employment has around 100 employees) killing a person in a car accident every 12 months. I think it must be much more like 1/1000 per year, or even much less. From this I can see what a total rip off every insurance company is.
  • ... if you accept any major debt, particularly a mortgage on a home. Lenders make it a condition of the mortgage, particularly if the main mortgage signatory has any dependents.

    So, you have the wrong genes? You're never going to own a home, either.

  • I suspect that some of the studies that the insurance companies conduct don't draw lines in the right places.

    Maybe. But they have a profit incentive to draw them in the right places, because if their competitors can draw them better, the competitor will make more money. Why? With the more accurate groupings, the competitor can sell to the better-identified low-risk group for less and give the high-risk groups a choice of paying more or going elsewhere.

    BTW, there are plenty of non-profit insurance companies -- they're called mutuals, in which every policyholder is a "shareholder" in the corporation. Since each policyholder's interest is in keeping his premiums down, the mutuals use the same risk analysis as the for-profit insurance companies to either discourage high-risk people from joining the mutual and raising costs, or charge them enough that the high-risk group pays for itself.
  • This (which is my new e-mail sig BTW)...

    We are supposed to be members of a civilization, not pack animals that leave the weak to fend for themselves and die.

    What can I say? I'm honored.

    BTW: I'm not anti-Linux. I even run it on one of my home machines. I just wish that there was some way to provide more quality control. Certain people should not be contributing to the open source effort.

  • I hope that you apply for insurance, are tested and found to have a genetic predisposition to a disease, are denied the insurance, are offered a policy that Bill Gates could not afford, exhaust your life's savings paying for medical care after you are stricken with a disease, exhaust your family's savings as they try to cover the costs, die because you could no longer afford the care necessary to keep you alive, and leave your children penniless and horribly in debt.

    What a sick, greedy bastard you are to suggest that insurance company profits are so important that people should be subjected to invasive genetic testing in an attempt to weed out those who might actually need the insurance.

  • You just need to shave clean, put a wig, wear some imaginative clothing, and talk one octave higher during the driving test.

    Many men underestimate how hard it is to drive while wearing high-heels and stockings. It has taken me years of practice to get good at it...

  • Terminally ill is completely different from having a predisposition to have a disease. Tests that examine the current health of the applicant are both ethical and currently allowed. How does a company have a right to know whether it's in my genes that I will get Alzheimer's? I don't see your logic.
  • But insurances are not interested in accidents/km. They are interested in accidents/time. Somebody driving 200,000km a year may have 2 accidents in 4 years, somebody with who drives 10000km a year may have only 1 accident in this time. Who will cost more?
  • Not sure I have the number of T's right, but if more companies start doing this, I have a feeling all of us are going to be screwed. Everyone, or at least 99% of the planet, must have something in their genes that could cause problems down the line. For example, in my family there's a history of cancer and heart disease. No doubt as science progresses, genetic signatures will be able to be detected to see if you have so much as a microscopic predisposition to a particular condition so insurance companies can screw you. (Like they don't already. Legal bandits, that's what all insurance is.)

    We seem to be heading more and more towards a situation like that in the movie "Gattaca". Genetic have's and have not's.

    Where does it end? I'm colorblind. That's a genetic condition. No doubt some insurance company could come up with a reason to not pay out on my car insurance...

    Thieves, the lot of them...

  • Norwich Union: "We're sorry, sir, but we have to reject you from our insurance plan. Our genetic tests have demonstrated that you possess the following genetic tendencies: - 99% likelyhood of sitting around all day posting on slashdot, getting RSI, while drinking coffee under the misconception that "caffeine" is a principle food group, thus, getting osteoporosis, demonstrable at an accuracy of nine times out of ten. - 98% likelyhood of then staying up all NIGHT as well, reading what other people have posted, nine times out of ten. - 76% likelyhood of drinking self to death in a flury of sobs upon one's Asheron's Call 39th level Bladesmaster getting stuck in the Direlands, and losing his Peerless Atlan sword."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @11:22PM (#447807)
    "Insurance cannot protect you from everything bad. It can only protect you from things which nobody can predict."

    Ummm...No. Insurance exists to mitigate risk. It mitigates risk by spreading risk-associated costs among a large body of payors. That an insurance company makes a profit is a direct result of it's skill at *pricing* and *predicting* the odds of particular risks. If it were true that insurance can only protect against "unpredictable" events, then there would be no way to price it, would there? What would you pay for protection against an unknown and unpredictable risk?

    "If you can predict it but the insurance company cannot...you can exploit the insurance company's ignorance. If this happens often enough, then the insurance company cannot make money, and goes out of business."

    Uh-huh. And if the insurance company can predict and you cannot, then the insurance company can take advantage of your ignorance. Who goes out of business then? And who has (or would gladly pay to compile) the large statistical databases on risk categories associated with particular genetic loci? This information won't be free.

    "Instead, insurance works to buy an unwanted risk from you. In order to price this risk fairly, the insurance company has to understand the risk."

    Indeed. And when the "risk" no longer becomes a "risk"--but rather, a certainty--what happens then? If you, as an insurance company, know that a person will come down with alzheimer's (or any other expensive, terminal disease, for that matter), do you take on that person as a customer? Sure--but only if he/she pays as much as their disease will cost, on average. In this case, what are you selling? Snake oil.

    "If it cannot understand the risk...then it must charge more for the insurance. Guess who pays this cost? Yep, all insurance customers do."

    To wit, I refer you to my original point--insurance exists to mitigate risk, not eliminate it. Yes, we all pay for the fellow down the road with AIDS, or the woman in the next county with Lymphoma. But we're paying to mitigate our own risk as well--in the event that we should develop Lymphoma or AIDS, we know that we'll be helped by our neighbors' payments. The insurance companies make money from this scheme by calculating risks in aggregate, and adding on a chip for the house, so to speak.

    Obviously, the better the "house" gets at calculating odds, the better their margins are going to be. But when the house *knows* of an outcome in advance, it becomes a game of "give me your money, and I'll give you a 0% chance of getting it back." This is the promise of genetic information--the house will know of the outcome in advance, and will be able to pick and choose who plays so that nobody wins. And that's just theft, in my book.
  • by opus (543) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @08:14AM (#447808)
    Putting all ethical judgement aside, this shows that you have a good reason to go out and buy life insurance now, before genetic screening becomes commonplace.

    Even if you don't have a family yet: if you think you will have one, buy life insurance now.

    Financial advisors generally recommend having 6-8 times your yearly salary. Better make that 6-8 times what you think you'll be making at the peak of your career, instead of 6-8 times what you're making now.

    If you're young, in good health, and a non-smoker, term life insurance is pretty cheap. You can get half a million for a few hundred dollars a year.

    And employers: you should be offering life insurance as a benefit to your employees. Offering insurance to groups is a good way for insurance companies to mitigate the problem of adverse selection.
    --
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 08, 2001 @04:02AM (#447809) Journal
    If the sanctitiy of profits for the insurance companies are paramount how do you propose to deal with people who have a higher then normal chance of getting some disease or another? What do you do with someone who has no coverage, who can not get coverage and who is sick?
    Three words:

    Compulsory State Insurance.

    Just like it's done in Canada, for example.

    --

  • by BrianH (13460) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:31PM (#447810)
    The only problem I see with this is that they weren't upfront about it.

    There is a widespread belief that insurance companies discriminating against someone because they have a genetic predisposition to a particular disease is somehow "wrong", and I don't get WHY. Insurance companies, like any other business, can only survive if their income exceeds their outlay. The natural response for ANY business must be to focus on reducing outlay. If you're an insurance company, you do that by refusing to cover sick people. This is why we take health exams when we want to buy large life insurance policies. This is why I pay more for my insurance because I'd smoked for a few years. Health insurance is like a big money pool, and the best way to make sure that there's enough money to go around is to limit the amount of money any one person can take out of it.

    And if you have somebody who is likely to develop a MAJOR problem because of a genetic problem? Well, you just don't let them in. There are high-rate programs to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and they'll have to join them like anyone else would who had a pre-existing disease. While I'm sure that some people will shout about the "unfairness" of paying more because of a genetic disorder, it must be pointed out that they will also be USING more insurance than the average healthy person. Blame nature, not the insurance company.
  • by Amanset (18568) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @12:47AM (#447811) Homepage
    I find it interesting that you equate Britain's rising crime rate a gun control problem. You seem to all-to-easily associate crime with lack of privately owned guns.

    If you speak to a Brit you will find that the rising level of crime has tied in quite astoundingly with the decline in amount of police officers. Back in the good old days being a policeman was an attractive job prospect. The pay was very good and there were excellent benefits. Unfortunately it hasn't kept up with the times and being a police officer is nowhere near as attractive as it used to be. Hence falling police numbers, hence rising crime.

    To give you an example. In my Parents' hometown (Kenilworth, Warwickshire) the local police station no longer has a policeman in the evening. So, if anything happens in Kenilworth the Police have to be called from nearby Leamington, about 20 mins away. I think just about any crime can be done in 20 minutes. Compare this to five years ago, where an office could be called from the local station 2 minutes away.

    This is why crime is rising in Britain. Anyway, do you really think we should trust our neighbours, with the common man's dubious knowledge of the law, with crime prevention or should we trust those who are trained in the very letter of the law? That, IMHO, is the difference between a Brit and someone from the US. In Britain we see the Police as those who uphold the law. IMHO those from the US want the ability to take the law into their owns hands, which is all well and good as long as everyone knows EXACTLY what the law is.
  • You are, in the end, pretty confused. First of all, the human condition is that wants always exceed the ability to fulfill them. This is not necessarily bad. I want an Open Source page layout program.

    Second of all, in a free market, a monopolist can only keep her monopoly by continuing to compete more efficiently than anyone else. Fail to compete, and the market will discard you like last year's pop music star.

    Third, most of your complaints are due to too much government regulation, not too little. Sure, if a monopoly can use government to hinder the freedom of the market, then it's not subject to correction. And that's bad. Any free-market economist will tell you that it's bad. But the solution is not more regulation, it's less. Why? Because when you pass regulations, the regulatee inevitably has a greater interest than anyone else, and so can apply political power to affect the regulations to help them. Very, very often, corporations welcome regulation. Regulation hinders the market, and lets corporations achieve greater profits than a free market would support.

    Anyway, learn more about economics and you'll see where you're wrong.
    -russ
  • by iCEBaLM (34905) <icebalm AT icebalm DOT com> on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @10:02PM (#447813)
    I have no problem with an Insurance company saying "Look, moron, until you quit smoking you're paying an extra $ amount for us to insure your life, cuz you're killing yourself." Smoking and other self-destructive behaviour I can change - my genetic make-up I CANNOT. This is tantamount to the US Government saying "Seeing as this particular group (OK, I'm being P.C. here..) statistically has a tendancy to commit crimes, we'll get the cops to pay special attention to them." Oops, bad example. ;)

    Except that it's not the government, it's a company, which doesn't have to treat you equally and fair. Insurance companies already discriminate against males by jacking up car insurance premiums.

    I wouldn't find this to normally be a problem, however car insurance is REQUIRED to drive, so essentially when it comes right down to it the government is discriminating by association.

    But this is life insurance, you don't really need life insurance, so you really are screwed.

    -- iCEBaLM
  • by gotan (60103) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @03:21AM (#447814) Homepage
    If genetic "selection" by insurance companies isn't prohibited by laws then what? Next employers will want to know if an applicant is likely to develop alcoholism (just as an example) or any diseases that might disrupt their work. So a social underclass is created (Gattaca although it's all over the discussion is too good an example not to use), parents will demand that the genome of their children is scanned prenatally, so an abortion can be induced if a child is not "up to standard" (there are already cases in which this is done). Now where will you draw the line? Cancer? Bad Eyes? Tendencies to overweight? Wrong colour of eyes?

    Now with a very sarcastic view of it all someone might say "Well, the human race needs a healthy dose of darwinism anyway". Well, they may well live among a race of superintelligent, beautiful and healthy people (until a disease sweeps it all away since none of them was resistant to it, there are some arguments in favor of a lare genetic pool), but i prefer that planet to be elsewhere, or if it must be earth then maybe in a hundred years time. Sadly we already had some of it in not too recent past, when a monstrous regime declared part of the population as "unfit for living" and set to work towards a "superior race". Well, i'm happy to live in a world where not everybody is blonde and has blue eyes.

    As abortions as consequence of "genetic defects" are already happening the question is, where the line will be drawn, and where it will be shifted after that ...
  • by Dr. Transparent (77005) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:22PM (#447815) Homepage Journal
    Gattaca
  • by orangesquid (79734) <orangesquid&yahoo,com> on Thursday February 08, 2001 @01:42AM (#447816) Homepage Journal
    Why hasn't somebody modded this up? Stupid moderators.
    For those who don't know: the movie Gattaca is about a future where people are classified by their genes, and parents often choose what genes their children will have as opposed to normal mating. This classification by genes results in any children who are created the natural way having fewer opportunities: getting rejected for jobs, etc.
  • The real fear of this isn't that they can find one or two people with a genetic defect, like many people may believe, but that they are able to find everyone with one. As it turns out, each of us carries, on average, 8 real measurable defects even though we function normally. Insurance companies are going to find out very fast if they start genetic screening (and boy do they want to!) that everyone will be uninsurable and everyone's rates will skyrocket. This won't help anyone, which is why we need privacy laws firmly in place to prevent this sort of massive screening. It's good for some things, but insurance is not one of them.

    "I may not have morals, but I have standards."
  • by gevauden (168866) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:36PM (#447818) Homepage
    AFAIK insurance companies won't insure you against pre-existing conditions. Fair enough too. However, if they're using genetic testing to figure out if you're ever likely to develop a condition then we have a problem. For example, you might carry the genes for some horrible, disfiguring disease which you may never actually develop. The company can then refuse to insure you because it was in your blood, so to speak.
    Now, you could argue that you'd still have the option of going to another company that doesn't perform these tests, but if this sort of thing gains popular acceptance there could potentially be a new form of 'genetic discrimination' taking place all over the world.
    And this could extend beyond insurance to things like getting jobs, immigration, marriages... all sorts of things.
    Then again, humanity's always looking for a new reason to keep one group or another down, so I guess it's really nothing new.

    p.s. Hope this makes sense, it's been a long day, I'm tired and explaining thoughts is difficult...

    Gev

  • This is one of the two obvious dilemmas of decoding the Genome, the other is whether a doctor has a right to screen you for, say, Huntington's Disease and then tell you you are going to go incurably mad by the time you hit 40.

    The person who opined that it destroys the concept of shared risk is right on. Premiums today are based on not knowing the probability of Alzheimer's or Huntington's or even heart disease. This knowledge skews the statistics in favor of - guess who! - the insurance companies because current rates are based on zero knowledge of a person's prediliction toward these diseases. I don't see them reducing premiums.

    Gattaca has been mentioned in half of the posts so far, but that movie comes close to identifying the dangers inherent in detailed knowledge of a person's makeup.

    As they say in the article, the insurers are not to be trusted to police themselves, and it is now up to the government to regulate the industry here. But they already screen and presumably deny coverage to Huntington's candidates! So why shouldn't they continue to discriminate against clients?

    The net result of all this may be nationalization of health care in England, America, and everywhere. This might be a good thing, as it will free up genetic research without having at least this particular ethical question.

    The alternative is to have certain races pay more or less depending on their susceptibility toward a given illness. This, as has been pointed out, is discrimination on a grand scale. Whereas in the past an insurance company couldn't legally say "we can't insure you because you are a Black man", now they can say "we won't insure you because you have the gene for sickle cell anaemia."

    By the way, very very soon (according to the book "Genome" - read it!) many of the capabilities revealed in Gattaca will be available. It will prove to be a revelation of "Future Shock" proportions. Bigger than the internet? Hard to say from here. But pretty damn big.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:57PM (#447820) Journal
    The second point of view is the insurance company's. How do they know the person applying for coverage isn't terminally ill and will make the company pay out millions of dollars for treatment? The company has a right to know the state of their paitents before giving coverage.

    It is expected that most insurance companies would have some sort of medical exam for things like life insurance, to avoid issues just like this.

    But more general items like health insurance are another thing. Or would you like to have YOUR own insurance cancelled because, you are getting older, and might get sick, and thank you for paying out the 30 or 40 years of premiums without much payout.

    There has been a major problem with insurances companies cancelling insurance whne you go to use it in a major way.

    In this context, avoiding people who might not even know they have some genetic condition can be suspect. The point is not insuring people based on pre-existing conditions is a bad thing. The potential insurance liability should be shared "equally" (or at random) by all insurers.

    "Unapproved" tests in this case is not the same as "unapproved" medicine. Medicine is sometimes regulated so that people do not hurt themselves. Tests are sometimes regulated so that the companies do not rip you off.

  • by tswinzig (210999) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:54PM (#447821) Journal
    The question is, ultimately, who should pay the expense of people with genetic diseases?

    If the government bans the insurance companies from doing this, the insurance companies will pay out more to these high-risk individuals, and your insurance rates will increase to cover it.

    If the government lets the insurance companies operate freely, the government will end up footing the bill through welfare (i.e. your money via taxes).

    If it was a libertarian society, the government would not interfere with the insurance companies. Well to-do high-risk people would pay more in insurance, but they would be covered. Poorer high-risk individuals would not be insured, and they would eventually need charity to pay their bills if they succumb to one of these genetic diseases. In such a society, with far fewer taxes, it would be much more common to donate money to charities and community organizations. Your money.

    So although I'm generalizing quite a bit, you are paying for genetic diseases no matter which route is taken. It just seems "nicer" to ban the insurance companies from discriminating like this.

    I bet the same people up in arms over these genetic tests are the same ones that are fighting anything to do with genetic engineering, genetic science, etc.

    Kind of ironic, since we will eventually lessen genetic diseases through genetic engineering, IMO.

    -thomas
  • by SagSaw (219314) <slashdot&mmoss,org> on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:34PM (#447822)
    Genetic screening has the potential to become the most effective preventitve healhcare procedure of the new century. If you can identify individuals at risk for a disease, they can be given preventitive medication and can be monitored so that treatment can begin in the earliest stages of the disease. However, if individuals refuse to take part in genetic screening because it can (and as this article shows it will) be used to deny not just insurance benifits, but possibly also to deny access to education, employment, and many other aspects of our daily lives.

    World governments need to set clear and fair standards concerning the use of genetic information. First, genetic testing can not be a requirement for anything, especially insurance. Second, every individual should have to give explicit permission for each entity given access to the results of genetic testing. Finally, it should be as illegal to discriminate based on genetic testing as it is to discriminate based on visible genetic attributes such as race. Only then will I volunteer genetic information for the purpose of genetic testing or screening.
  • by An. (Coward) (258552) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @11:05PM (#447823)
    If you can predict it but the insurance company cannot (or is prohibited by law from doing so), then you can exploit the insurance company's ignorance. If this happens often enough, then the insurance company cannot make money, and goes out of business.

    Insurance companies have existed for ages offering coverages for tons of diseases without the ability to genetically screen applicants, and they're not going out of business. They don't need to genetically discriminate. Denying them the ability to do so wouldn't pose a competitive threat to their business model--it would simply preserve the status quo, an environment that they've adapted to and that they prosper in.

    If it cannot understand the risk (because it's prohibited from certain actions), then it must charge more for the insurance. Guess who pays this cost? Yep, all insurance customers do.

    Exactly. All of us do. You don't have a one-on-one relationship with an insurer, where they bet that you personally will pay more in premiums than they pay out on your behalf. The risk is spread amongst a large pool of insured people. We all pay premiums, and our payments cover the claims of others. Sooner or later we'll be making our own claim, and others will pay for us. That's the whole point of insurance--to pool financial resources to cover present costs, while providing coverage to everyone who pays for it.

    Keep this in mind: nobody is genetically perfect, and nobody is immortal. We all get sick, we all die, and many of us rack up some substantial bills in the process. Some diseases can be tested for genetically, and some can't. Who are you to insist that your premiums be lowered at the expense of others just because the insurance company hasn't figured out what's wrong with you?

  • by Pogue Mahone (265053) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @10:52PM (#447824) Homepage
    I think that many people are confused about the purpose of insurance.
    I agree. You are one of them.

    Insurance cannot protect you from everything bad.
    Insurance cannot protect you from anything, despite the claims in some of the advertisements. Insurance (in this case, specifically life insurance) can only protect your dependants from the financial consequences of your (premature) death.

    The reason insurance works is that it spreads the risk over as large a number of people as possible. To screen people for the presence of selected traits, over which they have no control, and which may or may not cause premature death, is just plain wrong. If they were screening for all causes of premature death, it might become acceptable, but it is not acceptable to charge you a higher price because you might die of breast cancer, while charging me a lower rate because I won't - despite the fact that I might be more likely to die of something else they're not screening.
    You never find questions like "Do you drive a car? If so, how many kilometres per year?" or "Do you make frequent long-distance flights in economy class?"
    OK, I admit that they ask if you smoke, or if you participate in dangerous sports. Maybe that's wrong too - but all those potential causes of death are under the control of the insured. If you don't like your premiums being higher, then stop doing it.
    --

  • by karmawarrior (311177) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @04:10AM (#447825) Journal
    Anyone who feels this demonstrates a seedier side to the insurance industry should know that this kind of thing is nothing new. As an example, when the AIDS scare broke in the late eighties, various Insurance companies started to disqualify people from being covered if they'd ever received an AIDS /HIV test.

    Note: Read the last sentence twice because I know most of you read it wrong the first time. I didn't write if they'd ever failed an AIDS/HIV test. I mean literally, if someone had gone to the doctor worried about HIV, had a test, been given the all clear, and had subsequently tried to apply for life or health coverage, they'd be turned down.

    The reasoning behind this logic? Well, anyone who'd be worried about getting AIDS must be living an at-risk lifestyle.

    Oh, for the benefit of the usual trolls who post on how this just proves that, once again, the "socialist" UK has a dreadful human rights record, compared to the free market US could I point out that the type of insurance we're talking about here is pretty much a free market in the UK, regulated no more than it is in the US.

    What we're seeing here is the usual self-interest run amok that keeps profits up and prices low at the expense of fundamental freedoms. In this case, at least in Britain people will get health insurance from the state, and can seriously embarrass the government, to the point of risking it being toppled in an election, if a government ever decides to refuse health coverage on the grounds of ill health. It's not perfect, but it does, in this case, guarantee privacy and fairness where it matters.
    --
    Keep attacking good things as "communist"

  • So my question is: is this actually legal?

    I wouldn't be surprised if it were... insurance
    companies already get to discriminate by criteria that practically no one else can: age and gender. Maybe they have race in the closet too.

    I just saw Gattaca a few weeks ago for the first time. The phrase that stuck out in my head was "discrimination down to a science". The thing is, the insurance companies -- and who knows who else -- already DO have it down to a science with statistical analysis ... the genetic links just will make the physical/health aspects more precise.

    And apparently, it's not just coming, it's already here.



    --
  • I think that many people are confused about the purpose of insurance. Insurance cannot protect you from everything bad. It can only protect you from things which nobody can predict. If you can predict it but the insurance company cannot (or is prohibited by law from doing so), then you can exploit the insurance company's ignorance. If this happens often enough, then the insurance company cannot make money, and goes out of business.

    Instead, insurance works to buy an unwanted risk from you. In order to price this risk fairly, the insurance company has to understand the risk. If it cannot understand the risk (because it's prohibited from certain actions), then it must charge more for the insurance. Guess who pays this cost? Yep, all insurance customers do.

    Ever noticed how seldom politicians are economists? Perhaps that explains their continued enactment of uneconomic laws.
    -russ
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @11:21PM (#447828) Homepage Journal
    I think that many people are confused about the purpose of insurance. Insurance cannot protect you from everything bad. It can only protect you from things which nobody can predict.

    You are the one who is confused. Applying for medical insurance should not trigger a form of genetic Russian Roulette where you go in for a battery of tests and are faced with financial ruin if one comes up positive. While insurance companies need access to your existing medical records in order to write health and life insurance policies, they should be denied the option of creating new health records with additional testing.

    In your world of genetic discrimination, where would you draw the line? Should infants be tested and, if found to have a gene for some devastating illness, be put into an uninsurable genetic underclass -- destined to be financially ruined? Maybe you could carry it further and deny them schooling, Medicare, and social programs (why spend tax dollars on someone who will probably die at a young age?). Perhaps employers could refuse to hire them in order to keep from training someone who will probably die soon. Should family members be forced into bankruptcy in order to pay for the medical care that their genetically-flawed family members need?

    We are supposed to be members of a civilization, not pack animals that leave the weak to fend for themselves and die. If you are lucky enough to remain healthy, your insurance premiums should help someone who is not so fortunate. If given the choice of lowering your insurance premiums or of providing medical and life insurance to those less fortunate, I would choose the latter.

  • by jbuhler (489) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @12:05AM (#447829) Homepage
    At the risk of being redundant, let me attempt to lay out the issue succinctly:

    1. If you were to become greviously sick, you most likely could not afford to pay for your health care. The cost to you would be catastrophic.

    2. Your insurance company has enough cash that it can afford to pay for you if you get sick. It maintains this state of affairs by setting everyone's premiums so that the company's aggregate expected income is at least 100% of its expected liability. Income above 100% of liability represents the insurer's profits.

    3. Given a large enough pool of customers and a comparatively small rate of disease, the company can cover its liability through reasonable (i.e. non-catastrophic) premiums even if it charges everyone the same rate. In this scenario, people with low risk pay higher premiums to subsidize those with high risk. Provided the number of high-risk individuals is small, their extra risk can be spread over the entire customer pool at a minimal cost per person.

    4. Alternatively, the insurer can charge higher-risk individuals higher premiums, thereby eliminating the subsidy. Without such subsidies, high-risk individuals may be charged catastrophic premiums and therefore become uninsurable.

    Let us assume that the insurer has perfect knowledge of everyone's risk (i.e. the probability that they will get sick). Under what circumstances is it fair(*) to subsidize those with higher risk, rather than making them pay the cost of said risk?

    Proposition: "A fair insurer asks its customer pool to subsidize those risks over which the individual has no control, while charging to the individual those risks that she assumes voluntarily." Discuss.

    Proposition: "An insurance company seeking to maximize its profit in a competitive setting cannot arbitrarily raise its premiums. It will therefore take every legal measure to lower the aggregate risk of its insured pool. In particular, the company's interests favor denying or charging catastrophic premiums to high-risk individuals, regardless of whether such action is 'fair'(*)."
    Discuss.

    (*) where "fair" means "consistent with your favorite ethical/moral system."
  • by Soko (17987) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @09:01PM (#447830) Homepage
    First, I'll take this post as coming from a Corporate Wag, not a troll.

    The second point of view is the insurance company's. How do they know the person applying for coverage isn't terminally ill and will make the company pay out millions of dollars for treatment? The company has a right to know the state of their paitents before giving coverage.


    Wake up and smell the espresso, dude, the article is about LIFE Insurance, not Health insurance. Millions of dollars in treatment for a DEAD person? I wouldn't Insure your life - you're smoking crack.

    I have no problem with an Insurance company saying "Look, moron, until you quit smoking you're paying an extra $ amount for us to insure your life, cuz you're killing yourself." Smoking and other self-destructive behaviour I can change - my genetic make-up I CANNOT. This is tantamount to the US Government saying "Seeing as this particular group (OK, I'm being P.C. here..) statistically has a tendancy to commit crimes, we'll get the cops to pay special attention to them." Oops, bad example. ;)

    You get my drift though - Insurance companies love this type of thing. You pay an Insurance company to assume risk for you - and then they do thier damndest to elimanate that risk. Please realize that an Insurance company takes YOUR money and invests it - that's how they make THIER money. When they pay out, they loose the money to invest, and can't make more profit. So, they make you pay more if you're at greater risk of dying, in order to cover the profit's they're likely to loose by you checking out early. If they had thier way, anyone with a serious illness in their family history would pay DOUBLE for life insurance. Genetic testing would give them an Iron Fist with which to asses the risk of insuring your life - so not only would you be sick, you'd be poor from paying overly inflated life insurance rates because of your genetic makeup. And Lord help you if you're pre-disposed to cancer or something and your employer finds out...

    If this were allowed to continue, anyone who could get sick would end up at the fringes of society - "Fuck you if you're going to die at 50, this guy will live to 100 and is a better investment." You'd end up with more discrimination based on genetic makeup, just like the morons who make skin color an issue. After all, that's a genetic trait, isn't it?

    Damn. Done ranting. Need Coffee...

  • by tbo (35008) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:37PM (#447831) Journal
    For a long time, one portion of the population has been paying significantly more for car insurance due to a specific genetic characteristic. That characteristic? A Y chromosome

    Where's the difference? You have no more control over your sex than you do the rest of your genome, so how is it permissible to discriminate for car and life insurance on the basis of sex, but not other genetic factors? Just because it takes some fancy testing to determine those factors doesn't change the situation one bit.
  • by sl3xd (111641) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @10:01PM (#447832) Journal
    Many of the arguments one way or another over this subject miss one point completely:

    Free market or no, insurance companies or no -- as long as doctors and hospitals are accessible, people WILL have health care. And the cost WILL be distributed across all levels of health and affluence. It already is.

    In the United States, the people will not stand for such actions. If it gets to the point where people even perceive the risk that they might not have health insurance because of being turned down for genetic (or any other reason) - espescially if it is the 'future risk', the public will not stand for it. They will lobby the government, elect officials that promise, and do everything they can to either regulate the industry, or get the goverment to provide health care to every man, woman, and child, reguardless of their condition.

    The only reason socialized medicine was fought off in the United States was because the insurance companies weren't doing a bad job, and it's at least a percieved fact that government healthcare would be inferior to private healthcare.

    But if a large part of the populace had no access to affordable medical care, simply because they may develop a disease in the future - the Medical community would lose a LOT of business.

    If the insurance company won't insure a guy who is a perfectly healthy and PAYING client now, who would normally go in for annual checkups, dental care, immunizations, etc - with his/her children. With genetic screening, the children won't be insured either (having inherited this defect) If this were the case, a very large amount of the populace wouldn't seek health care unless absolutely necessary.

    And the medical community loses revenue in a very big way because of the reduced number of patients.

    So, you would have two major forces - an even greater proportion of the populace demanding insurance reform, or government health care, and a growing number of health care companies demanding the same.

    In the end, everybody WILL have health care. The difference is whether we will have responsible, self-policing insurance companies, heavily regulated and untrusted insurance companies, or the Government.

    It is simply not in the insurance companies (or the people's) long-term interest to deny people based on pre-existing conditions of any kind.

    Even a pure capitalist would agree it is not just to punish someone based off of conditions that were never a choice of the affected.

    Only the already wealthy would try to forge an argument that would make it sound like a Good Thing TM to willfully deny health care to people - not because there is an insufficient amount of care in the area - but because of willfully denying that care because it hurts THEIR already overflowing pocketbook... And then they try to convince as many people as they can that it will take money from everybody else's pocketbook too. It simply isn't the case.

    In a modern civilization, the rich will pay for the poor - whether by choice, by tax, or by gunpoint. The rich are always in the minority, and they already have all they need. It's an enevitable consequence of democracy that the voice of the people will outnumber the voice of the rich, and the voice of the people will force the rich to pay to support the poor's needs.

    Scoff now - but the concept of public schools, social security, welfare, medicare... all programs that are firmly in place now - these programs would have been scoffed at as ruinous, revolutionary, and completely stoppable by the Vanderbuilts and Rockefellers of a century ago. The rich didn't have their way then, nor will they now.

    We won't stand for it, and we'll get our respective governments to intervene before it does.
  • Maybe they have race in the closet too.

    If it becomes legal to discriminate by DNA,
    race most certainly WILL be part of the package.
    After all, what we call race is just a few broad phenotypes associated with some genotypes.

    It's well established that people of certain races are more susceptible to certain ailments. Skin cancer for whites, sickle-cell anemia for some blacks, etc....

    --
  • by Fred Banana (301950) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @08:20PM (#447834)
    I'm waiting for them to use the records from your Safeway or Jewel/Osco supermarket coupon cards that track what you buy. "No coverage for you, Mr. two pounds of bacon a week! Try granola for a month and we'll talk!"

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