Private medical insurers (PMI) face a significant issue in not being able to ask customers whether they have had a genetic test for cancer.
This is according to Dr Tim Woodman, medical director, policy and cancer services Bupa, who was participating in a panel debate on the future of cancer care at the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII) 2023 Annual Summit in London yesterday.
Woodman told delegates there were two issues facing insurers – the moratorium preventing providers from asking customers about genetic testing for cancer and the fact that testing inevitably leads to more tests.
“There is this moratorium in terms of British insurers which means that as an insurance provider you can’t ask anyone applying for insurance, ‘have you had a genetic test?’, Woodman explained.
“So if the assumption is these are people who have no symptoms of cancer and you have this test which says you may have cancer, what are you going to do?
“You’re going to phone the broker and get some PMI and then you’re going to see an insurance company – and that insurance company can’t ask if you have had a genetic test. So that’s something that’s going to have to be addressed, and the ABI [Association of British Insurers] are looking at the moratorium issue anyway.”
Woodman added a further issue is that tests lead to test “undoubtedly”.
“My view is that you need more specific genetic tests on specific mutations to say, actually, we agree with that result, you have got early signs of cancer,” he continued. “It’s most likely coming from your bowel, your lung or your pancreas and this is what we need to do next.
“But it is an area that’s developing rapidly. We just need to make sure we’re on the front foot to deal with it.”
Touching on the wider topic of screening, fellow panellist Dr Ali Hassan, chief medical and healthcare officer at Vitality, maintained while it can prove a positive process in ensuring people engage with health, it does not necessarily offer a diagnosis.
“You will have these tests,” Hassan said. “You need to verify if you have cancer or you don’t have cancer. And following on from that you also need assert whether identifying this cancer makes a difference to the quality of your life span. That question hasn’t been answered yet.
“However, if we do get to a point where it is proven people have a better outcome for people to go through a screening programme, then it’s for us as an industry to understand this in the context of the wider system. Because it may be the case that the NHS funds this, or it may be the case there are other routes to access it and each of us can make a decision about what we do.”
Also participating in the panel was Dr John Burke, chief medical officer and director of medical policy at Axa Health, who explained a further issue people face is how they access continued testing and support.
“It will be interesting to see how it pans out,” he added.