The NY Times had a really interesting article this weekend about Americans who are reluctant (fearful) to have DNA tests screen them for inherited genetic illnesses. Those who want a DNA test pay out of pocket so that no one else — including their own doctor — sees the results.
The reason for the reluctance and secrecy? They’re afraid insurance companies will deny them coverage or charge them higher rates.
The effect of this fear of discrimination by insurance companies is:
- Patients withholding information about their conditions from their doctors, which means their physician is unable to treat them effectively;
- Patients refusing to take necessary tests, leaving both themselves and their doctors ignorant of their conditions and lead them to get sicker
- Fewer volunteers willing to participate in disease research, which is bad news for everyone.
All this seems dire. But for some strange reason, the story made me feel hopeful. In reading the article, everyone must recognize how truly perverse and untenable the current system is. Your genetics — which you cannot control — should not dictate whether or not you can get insurance coverage at a reasonable cost. Your genetics, and what it reveals, should be helpful to you, not harmful. And it’s this general knowledge of how blatantly unfair this system is that will compel Americans to demand change…..