Tantamount to Fraud?: Exploring Non-Disclosure of Genetic Information in Life Insurance Applications as Grounds for Policy Rescission
53 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 2, 2015
Many genetic counselors recommend that individuals secure desired insurance policies, such as life insurance, prior to undergoing predictive genetic testing. It has been argued, however, that this practice is “tantamount to fraud” and that failure to disclose genetic test results, or conspiring to secure a policy before testing, opens an individual up to legal recourse. This debate traps affected individuals in a Catch-22. If they apply for life insurance and disclose a genetic test result, they may be denied. If they apply without disclosing the information, they may have committed fraud. The consequences of life insurance fraud are significant: If fraud is found on an application, a life insurer can rescind the policy, in some cases even after the individual has passed away. Such a rescission could leave family members or beneficiaries without the benefits of the life insurance policy payment after the individual’s death and place them in in economic difficulty. Although it is clear that lying in response to a direct question about genetic testing would be tantamount to fraud, few, if any, life insurance applications currently include broad questions about genetic testing. This paper investigates whether non-disclosure of unasked for genetic information constitutes fraud and explores varying types of insurance questions that could conceivably be interpreted as seeking genetic information. Life insurance applicants generally have no duty to disclose unasked for information, including genetic information, on an application. However, given the complexities of genetic information, individuals may be exposed to fraud and rescission of their life insurance policy despite honest attempts to truthfully and completely answer all application questions.
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