Insurance

Longevity Predictor Test: How Old Are You Really?

Should your life insurance company be prohibited from requiring you to take the test?

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Two as-yet unidentified life insurance companies plan to use Life Epigenetics' M-Panel test to predict how long potential clients will live. The test, based on research by the UCLA scientists Steven Horvath and Brian Chen, essentially estimates an individual's biological age (as opposed to his chronological age) using markers associated with turning various genes off or on.

Horvath and Chen report that for about 5 percent of the people who take it, the M-Panel test finds that their biological age is around 10 years higher than their chronological age. For those unfortunate people, their risk of mortality is 48 percent higher than the average for their age cohort. More happily, about 20 percent of the test population learns that their biological age is 5 years younger, and their mortality risk 18 percent lower.

Needless to say, this could have interesting consequences for the life insurance market. If my results indicate that my biological age is younger than my chronological age, an insurer would be happy to charge me less for a term policy. On the other (and sadly more likely) hand, if my test indicated that my biological age is greater than my chronological age, the insurer would want to charge me higher premiums.

A 48 percent increase in mortality risk suggests that 55-year-old never-smokers' risk of dying in the next 10 years would rise substantially, from 74 to 110 out of 1,000 American men. That is approximately the same 10-year mortality risk 60-year-olds would have. According to TIAA's life insurance calculator, a male 55-year-old never-smoker standing 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds would pay $35 per month for a 20-year $100,000 term life policy. If the M-Panel test found that the would-be 55-year-old client's mortality risk is now similar to that of a 60-year-old, an insurance company using that information is likely bump his premium up to $53.00 per month.

The 2008 Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) "protects Americans from being treated unfairly because of differences in their DNA that may affect their health." But GINA specifically excluded life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance from its requirements. When GINA was enacted there was no good general genetic tests that could accurately predict heightened risks of mortality. Now there may be.

Does the advent of predictive aging tests mean that GINA's prohibitions should now be imposed on life insurers? No.

Life insurance companies have long managed the problem of adverse selection by identifying groups of people more at risk than the general population and then charging them more money. For example, insurers take factors like obesity and smoking into account when setting their premiums. The TIAA calculator boosts a 55-year-old's premium to $62 per month if he is obese and $130 per month if he smokes. If insurers are not allowed to take the results of accurate epigenetic accelerated aging tests into account, purchasers whose results show greater biological aging could load up on life insurance at relatively low cost to themselves. In such cases, average premiums would have to rise in order to cover the losses incurred by higher-risk folks who are paying rates that don't reflect their actual risks.

For more background see my article "Diagnosing Your Demise," in which I ask: Assuming that future genetic testing, combined with a sophisticated biochemical analysis of your past environmental insults, could accurately narrow your life expectancy down to a specific number of years, would you want to know how long you have left? My own unequivocal answer is yes.

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    1. I’m 87. But I don’t feel a day over 45!

  1. So they’re using genetic modification for time travel now? This is getting out of hand.

  2. Are individuals banned from ordering it like 23andMe?

  3. If my results indicate that my biological age is younger than my chronological age, an insurer would be happy to charge me less for a term policy.

    Because… capitalism?

    1. Because competition.

      1. Maybe you’ve missed the last several rounds of legally lumping people together? Penaltaxing young healthy people for not getting in line and acting like old sick people?

        An insurer might charge you less. They won’t be happy about it.

  4. Life Epigenetics’ M-Panel test ….

    To be honest, I did not believe that Epi could stay away forever, regardless of moniker.

    1. I wonder what he went to prison for.

      1. Prison? I did not know that one could access H&R from any of the prisons in the United States (or prisons elsewhere).

        Welcome back (if you are, in actuality Episiarch).

  5. Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) “protects Americans from being treated unfairly because of differences in their DNA that may affect their health.”

    What if I get a good deal on my insurance because of my genes and then the algorithm changes, or if previously unknown, but disclosed, gene combinations are discovered to be linked to diseases?

    I propose a Variable Algorithm Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act. I’m sure my colleagues will provide firm support.

    1. ^Thread winner!

    2. I’d love to see how Caribous Barbie would spin that!

  6. You’re as old as you feel.

    I feel 127.

  7. RE: Longevity Predictor Test: How Old Are You Really?

    This is how old I am.
    I can remember when blacks in this country voted for republicans.

    1. We all can remember that. Or do you mean a majority of blacks?

  8. The TIAA calculator boosts a 55-year-old’s premium to $62 per month if he is obese and $130 per month if he smokes.

    What’s the boost if he frequents Hit & Run? (Asking for a friend.)

    1. The premiums only increase during election season due to the risk of alcohol poisoning

  9. At least they’re not making the dubious claim that you can reduce your biological age going forward, as one TV ad for the gullible suggested.

  10. Simple solution: Menu choice of insurance coverage. Coverage of space-alien abduction insurance? I decline! Coverage of early demise because of genes that I do not have? I decline! Coverage for being mentally retarded, which I already have? I have to pay extra!

    And let free-will charity fill in the gaps! Humanoids survived for tens of thousands of years before the advent of Government-Almighty-forced “charity”! We could go there again! If only Government Almighty would allow us to…

    I am waiting for my menu-calculated insurance choices, but am not holding my breath… Holding my breath on this, would be 99.9999% guaranteed to be lethal, and doubtlessly NOT covered….

  11. The purpose of high premiums on smokers and the obese is to discourage smoking and obesity.

    So… Would not high premiums on people with genetic “defects” discourage the parents of those people from selecting mates with those “defects” (quotation marks very deliberately used)?

    Is that different from avoiding a prospective co-parent because they have asymmetrical facial features or a bad personality? Or from aborting a fetus with signs of Down syndrome?

    Could these tests be used ON fetuses? To allow parents to abort or CRISPR the kids into a higher longevity? Wouldn’t they be doing that anyway?

    And is it fair to punish children with higher premiums if their parents “screw up”? Or does an ostensible “benefit” to society outweigh that?

    Just hittin’ golfballs into the lake here.

    1. Simple solution:

      When I sign up for insurance, I pick…

      A) If genetic testing indicates that my baby is “Down’s Syndrome”, I will abort.

      B) If genetic testing indicates that my baby is “Down’s Syndrome”, I will hold my insurance company liable for $100,000 or more, till “Down’s Syndrome” result finally dies.

      Allow me to pick A or B, and hold me to it! Freedom for individuals, and society’s progress, is maximized! But progs and socialist will call me a NAZI for saying such things…

    2. “And is it fair to punish children with higher premiums if their parents “screw up”?

      Don’t know about “fair”, but that’s what already happens. If you have the bad luck to have kids with serious health conditions? Well, good luck with your dreams of retiring ever!

    3. The purpose for higher premiums on smokers and the obese is not to modify their behavior, it is to account for their higher incidence of mortality.

      Similar economics to what results in student loans costing more than loans to employed home owners.

      1. No, the purpose for higher premiums on smokers and the obese *for the corporation* is to account for their higher incidence of mortality.

        Modifying their behavior is *society’s* purpose for allowing the premiums to fluctuate. Because if there were no such purpose, people would demand that insurance companies be barred from demanding different premiums from the customers in question. You will note that arguments about single-payer healthcare tend to find their way around to that question.

        Obviously libertarians object to government mandating equal premiums on principle, but non-libertarians demand a consequentialist perspective. And if it is decided by the vox populi that people being hit with higher premiums have made no mistake that would merit being punished with said disincentives, then there will be demand for government controls, and subsidies and/or monopsony to enable those controls. The question is whether the mistakes of parents, in choosing, or choosing not to modify, inferior genes for their children, should be allowed to fall upon said children in the form of said higher premiums. And whether there are free-market charitable options for avoiding such a dynamic without government intervention.

  12. “Your genetic tests say that you’ve been dead for 50 years!!!”

    Get ready for Spooktober people, I’ll be bringing scares like this all month.

    1. “You will die of a predisposition to gallbladder infection you inherited from your great-aunt in seven days.” {click}

      1. But my great-aunt is… DEAD

        1. Well, did she die before she gave birth to your father?

  13. Why aren’t they making this test available to the public? My guess is that they don’t want to get sued by the family if someone expires before their “use by” date. Or if somebody keeps smoking rather than quit because the test showed them to be biologically young for their age (the old moral hazard argument).

    1. Might just be too soon, though if 23AndMe has difficult legality in the US I can only imagine this will get fucked as well.

  14. You know who else used eugenics to find “better” humans?

    1. Anyone who has ever turned down a date or marriage proposal?

    2. The whole thing against eugenics is retarded IMO. It’s a sound principle. It may not be nice or whatever, but it’s sound. I don’t believe in forced eugenics, but if we’re able to do it morally in the future, I say bring on the Gattica. If we don’t some shit hole country will allow it and people will be taking trips there to get knocked up, so might as well not fight it.

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