Pat Riley Knows!

Sorry, its not Pat Riley the famed NBA coach, but Pat Rilley, 77, from in Ann Arbor, Michigan who found that she had inherited an ApoE4 gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and bought a long-term care policy in response.  The New York Times article shows the flip-side of a problem that is arising from genetic testing and insurance.  The historical fear propagated by well-meaning policy makers is genetic testing is bad, we cannot discriminate against people based on conditions they have no control over, conditions they were born with.  This is an understandable argument, particularly in America were we view discrimination based on other inherited traits such as race, as reprehensible.  This line of reasoning led to the adoption of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Privacy Act.

However, what happens when the insureds get their own genetic information, and use that information to make insurance purchasing decisions that work against the insurance company? The article highlights the fact that individuals are now able to gain access to their genetic data through companies like 23andMe and making insurance purchasing decisions as a result.

The article reports that research by Dr. Robert C. Green, a geneticist at Harvard University, found that those who learned they had the gene variant — were nearly six times more likely to buy long-term care insurance than those who did not.

Two things:

  • Insurtech is coming and insurance companies will need to higher value analytics to assess, select, and price risk.  This will lead to precision based pricing, and it will provide clarity as to where government support is truly required (i.e., those that cannot afford insurance will need government assistance, and we can find out the true nature of the entitlement needed).
  • Epigenetics is not the same as genetics.  Epigenetics is reading how your environment is impacting your gene expression.  For example, it’s possible to have the ApoE4 gene and not develop Alzheimers.  Epigenetics offers insights on what that is, and offers the opportunity to develop the accurate predictive analytics on disease and aging.