On March 8, 2017, the highly-debated Bill S-201 was passed by a huge divide of 222 votes for the new bill and only a mere 60 against it. This controversial proposal will eliminate the need to require someone to undergo or disclose the results of genetic testing as a condition of receiving goods or services.
This bill will affect many corporations, but it is particularly hindering for the way the insurance industry conducts its business. It’s not surprising that many insurers lobbied for the bill to be denied as it directly and dramatically affects each Canadian policy owner.
But the attempts and efforts the insurance industry and other opposing parties have put forth didn’t seem to sway the outcome of the vote in their favour. With the bill now passed and approved, how will the consumers be affected? What does this mean for the insurance industry?
What is Bill S-201?
Bill S-201, known as the “Genetic Non-Discrimination Act”, outlines the prohibition of requiring a person’s genetic test results to be disclosed in order to receive a service or to enter into a contract or agreement. The bill’s contents directly apply to the traditional underwriting process of a life insurance application. Genetic testing and screening is an aspect of underwriting for a majority of life insurance plans and is what many Canadians feared when looking to apply for coverage.
Genetic screening reveals your genetic history and your susceptibility to contracting certain illnesses in the future. This medical testing is often used by underwriters to help determine the overall risk a potential client brings when he or she is applying for coverage. The results this tactic can disclose can not only have a negative impact on your premium payments, but it can also harm your chances of qualifying for the coverage you desire.
The bill itself was actually fairly bipartisan when it was being debated, as people from the each of the major opposing parties seemed to agree with each other on both ends of the debate.
What Does This Mean for Insurance Policies?
With Bill S-201 approved and the requirement for genetic screening no longer being necessary, the underwriting process will face a severe hindrance and be forced to tighten its restrictions and practices. This new bill could potentially make the underwriting process for traditional life insurance policies even more difficult than they can be now, as insurers will have to find other ways to determine risk.
As underwriting changes and adapts to this new bill’s regulations, simplified and guaranteed issue plans will likely grow and become more popular for many insurance companies. These life insurance policies, which were already growing in popularity before this bill, can possibly become the “go-to” plan for many Canadians.
Since simplified and guaranteed issue plans already limit and do away with underwriting respectively, they can only seem to become more prevalent in a world where underwriting may be more difficult for the traditional policies.
Genetic Discrimination of the Consumer
The most obvious way the consumer benefits from this new bill is the fact that genetic discrimination will no longer be an issue for Canadians applying for insurance. During the debating period, the insurance industry, who opposed the bill, put forward the argument that they could end genetic discrimination on their own. The industry raised the idea that the requirement for genetic testing would be removed for individuals applying for $250,000 or less in coverage.
This didn’t persuade many of the supporters of the bill who believed human rights issues shouldn’t be determined by corporations. This is a great point, but just as prominent is the fact that $250,000 of coverage is relatively low for the debts many carry today. If this was the only way genetic discrimination was fought, many Canadians would be simply settling for less coverage to avoid issues with insurance eligibility.
Without the fear of discrimination, Canadians can be confident that their genetic makeup won’t limit them for any goods or services, including life insurance. But the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association warns that people will have to face higher costs for insurance once genetic screening is not required to apply for coverage.
Time will only tell how the industry decides to handle the premiums issue in the wake of this new bill but is this warning merely an empty threat? By scaring consumers into worrying about the possible rise of premiums, insurers are showing their true lack of concern for who should matter most to them, you.
When the bill becomes law genetic identity will be protected and screening will no longer be used as a way to ensure profits. So far, Bill S-201 seems to be a positive move in the protection of people’s best interests and consumer equality. But it’s definitely going to take time for the industry to adjust to this new development and ensure that it’s beneficial for all.
In the end, when looking for insurance coverage, your right to fair protection should be strived for by every insurer. Now that your genetic information is protected, insurance companies need to make the right move and put your right’s as a consumer first.