The Mainstreaming Of Genomics

Mar 8 2012 @ 7:28pm

The NYT reports that genome sequencing is getting much cheaper. Ezra Klein thinks this "means that an individual mandate — or something much like it — is inevitable":

Eventually, genomic testing will be a powerful predictor of future illness. And it raises the potential that young people will get themselves tested and then purchase insurance based off the result. So those with a clean genomic result might go for a cheap catastrophic plan, while those with a high risk of developing pricey illnesses will opt for more comprehensive insurance. The result would be, in insurance terms, an “adverse-selection death spiral,” as the healthy opt out of expensive insurance, the sick opt into it, and premiums spin out of control.

Razib Kahn looks on the bright side:

Today correlation between cancer and location is the stuff of class-action lawsuits. But this sort of correlational science is often weak tea, and will seem pathetic in comparison to what is to come. Biological information technology will hyper-charge correlational science. From the cloud one can extract out patterns of elevated cancer risk, conditional on genetics, location, and lifestyle. Correlations of particular genomic features with purchasing habits will naturally fall out of the information stream. Data will reveal your risk based on exactly where you live, while controlling for genetic background. Currently medical trials runs into thousands of individuals, with coarse assessments of confounding variables. The new information cloud will increase the sample size to millions, and instead of self-reports it will be able to track confounds in real time!