Blog | Wednesday, March 21, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Who is going to pay for genetic tests?

One insurance company puts the estimated total spending for genetic tests at $5 billion in 2010, or 8% of national spending on clinical laboratory services, and that figure could rise by three to five times in the next 10 years.

UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest insurer, used its databases to calculate that testing for UnitedHealthcare members increased by about 14% a year on average between 2008 and 2010, to about $500 million in 2010.

Extrapolating from the data, combined with additional analysis of Medicare and Medicaid fee-for-service spending, signals that national spending for these services could reach between $15 billion and $25 billion by 2021.

Results appeared online at the company's website.

Consumers are generally aware and accepting of genetic tests, the company reported based on a survey. Around three-quarters of consumers agree that genetic testing helps doctors diagnose preventable conditions and offer more personalized treatment options. 71% said they were familiar with genetic testing, although only half felt they were knowledgeable about genetic science. Only 6% of consumers reported having had a genetic test themselves and 10% said a family member has had a test.

Around three-quarters of doctors surveyed say that genetic testing allows for more personalized medical decisions and more targeted choice of therapy. 63% say it gives them the ability to diagnose conditions that would otherwise be unknown. Physicians report having recommended genetic testing for 4% of their patients over the past year. However, about three-quarters of doctors also said that there are patients in their practices who would benefit from a genetic test but have not yet had one.

75% of physicians responding to the survey described themselves as "somewhat knowledgeable" about genetic science, with 7% reporting that they are "very knowledgeable" and 16% "not knowledgeable."

Physicians report that 72% of patients are "somewhat able" to understand the results of genetic tests, with 13% "fully able" to do so, and 7% "not at all able to understand" them.

59% say that they are very concerned about the cost of genetic tests for their patients; while 21% are concerned about reimbursement. 56% think that the net effect of new genetic tests will be to increase health care spending, compared with only 19% who think such testing will reduce health care costs.

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