• Kyodo

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Insurers have rejected applicants found to have congenital diseases during mass screenings of newborns, even though the diseases are treatable, it was revealed Tuesday.

A survey conducted last summer by a group led by Akira Hata, a professor of public hygiene at Asahikawa Medical College in Hokkaido, also found that insurers have canceled contracts with policyholders when they learned the holders were diagnosed with congenital diseases.

Hata is scheduled to report on insurers’ discriminatory practices at a three-day annual meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Nagoya beginning April 19.

The researchers distributed questionnaires to the families of 105 children who had been diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria, which are both curable with medication.

The surveys asked whether the children are covered by life insurance and educational insurance provided by private insurers and the postal authority.

Of 90 children for whom the families had tried to take out insurance, 43 were rejected when the families notified insurers of congenital diseases.

The families of the 47 others succeeded in taking out insurance by not clarifying that their children have congenital diseases or by applying for insurance policies before they were born.

Insurance payments were sought for three of the 47 children because they were hospitalized for diseases other than the congenital ones. But insurers canceled their contracts after learning they had been diagnosed with congenital disorders.

The insurers insisted applicants for insurance policies are obliged to report their diseases.

Nearly all newborn babies undergo screening, which is conducted by local governments across the country. The examinations focus on six types of congenital diseases.

“We need urgently to discuss this issue and work out certain rules before discrimination based on genetic information prevails,” Hata said.

In 2000, a man in western Japan sued an insurance company, demanding the firm pay him insurance money. He said he was denied payment due to a genetic examination.

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