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How Genetic Testing Can Affect Your Life Insurance Rates

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Genetic testing can provide some answers about your medical future but experts warn there can be serious downsides to DNA tests.

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There are different kinds of genetic testing, some from a doctor, others are do it yourself kits and those have become especially popular as tens of millions were sold this past December alone.

But the information could be used against you.

Carolyn Koutsaftis, who is 46 and healthy, was upset and surprised when she was denied life insurance.

It was the result, she believes, of sitting down with a genetic counselor after finding out her mother tested positive for the breast cancer gene.

"I can't think of another reason why I would be denied," Koutsaftis said.

Scientists say genetic testing can save lives by predicting the potential for disease, but increasingly, people are finding they're being denied for life insurance, long-term care, even disability insurance, based on the results.

"Most people don't think that if they get a genetic test, it could ever come back to bite them, but it can," Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog explained. "If you apply for life insurance, they do have a right to get all your medical records. And if you've had a genetic test taken, they do have the right to request it."

Current law protects against genetic discrimination when it comes to health insurance and health advocates would like the law to also cover life insurance.

"It's a big challenge because the insurance industry wants to maintain its independence and its ability to determine risk based on their own formula," said Lisa Schlager, vice president of community affairs and public policy for Force.

Experts say people shouldn't hide results of genetic tests, because later, you could be accused of fraud. Instead, it's recommended that people apply for life insurance before having any genetic testing done.

"I understand where the insurers are coming from," Koutsaftis said.

But Koutsaftis says it's also time they become more understanding.

"Individuals who know are more likely to do something about it and to manage it better than somebody who doesn't want to know. And you would think the premiums would reflect that," she said.

There are some insurance companies that will issue life insurance for those predisposed to certain diseases but experts say those premiums tend to be higher.

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