Some such scams are outright frauds, yet others are legal.
Be wary of them all.
Genetic Testing is Only Going to Expand
Genetics has been conventional medicine’s favorite “toy” ever since Crick and Watson discovered the double helix structure of DNA back in 1953. As a result, doctors tend to believe genetics is the fundamental cause of every noninfectious disease.
This tendency accelerated with the success of the Human Genome Project in 2003. Mapping out genomes has been coming down dramatically in cost.
Some genes are associated with a higher risk of some diseases, including certain types of cancer. However, while these genes raise your risk of certain cancers, there is no 100% guarantee you will or won’t get that cancer.
The “Angelina Jolie” BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are an example. Not all women with that mutation get breast or ovarian cancer. And of course, many women without those genes do come down with breast and ovarian cancer.
However, as the cost of genetic testing continues to drop, more doctors are going to request you get it.
Genetic Testing and “Personalized” Medicine will Improve Conventional Medications
In the future, your doctor may want you to get genetic testing before prescribing certain kinds of medications.
Medical science is finding some drugs work on people who have certain genetic traits – but not on people who don’t have those genetic traits.
That is apparently true of certain kinds of cancer. Not all breast cancers are the same, for example. Drug X may kill one kind, but not another.
We’re just beginning to work this out. Right now, your average doctor doesn’t know how your genome may affect how well a medicine works – or doesn’t – on you.
This may also explain why many drugs work incredibly well in clinical trials for some patients, but not for others. Pharmaceutical companies may have wasted billions of dollars on drugs that were never approved by the FDA because they didn’t realize the drug worked only for patients with certain genetic characteristics.
Yet the drug would be highly valuable to people with the right genetics.
Genetic Testing for Your Health Should Come From Only Your Doctor.
With the rise in genetic testing, especially for cancer, the scammers have moved in to steal money from you and the Medicare trust fund.
Recently, the FBI arrested 35 people for schemes involving phony claims to Medicare for genetic testing. They actively targeted the elderly and disabled.
They’re associated with many laboratories and telemedicine and include some doctors.
The basic scheme is this: they contact you. That could be through telemarketing, at a health fair or going to senior housing. Or they send you the genetic testing kit in the mail.
They offer you free genetic testing in return for your identifying information, especially your Medicare number. They might also ask for the name of your doctor, trying to make you believe they’re going to send the results to your doctor.
Remember – your Medicare number is simply your Social Security number or the Social Security number of the person you’re receiving SSA benefits on. Therefore, identity theft is another benefit for the scammers.
Sometimes, they have a real doctor talk to you briefly so they can say that the doctor “examined” you.
They bill Medicare for the test, which can be as expensive as $18,000.
If Medicare pays, the trust fund – and all of us who pay into it – have been ripped off. If Medicare doesn’t pay, the scammers may want you to pay.
You get nothing in return. The whole procedure was fraudulent because the testing was not ordered by your doctor. It was done just to bill Medicare.
How to Protect Yourself
Do not let anybody swab your mouth except your doctor.
Don’t accept DNA testing kits sent to you at home unless you ordered it or your doctor wants you tested?
Hang up on anybody who calls you about DNA or cancer testing, except your doctor.
Never give out your Social Security or Medicare number to strangers over the phone or in person, even at a health fair or a senior center.
What if You’re Curious About Your Genetics?
Someday, I’m sure, genetic testing will be routine. Your entire genome will be kept in the cloud, available to medical specialists.
I can understand people who are curious. I am but haven’t rushed to get it done. If you want to have yours done, go ahead. But if you do it yourself, the cost won’t be covered by your health insurance or Medicare.
Prepare yourself emotionally. You may be surprised by what kinds of genes you’re carrying. You may also learn family secrets about who your real mother and/or father are. There are many horror stories online.
Myself, I’m totally suspicious of the advice people are giving out associated with genes. Your ancestors may have eaten more of certain kinds of foods than other people, but so what? Also, what about people who have ancestors from all around the globe?
There are diseases 100% determined by genetics. If you have sickle cell disease, however, you don’t need genetic testing to tell you that. You learned it with your first pain crisis.
If you are at high risk of certain cancers or other diseases, by all means, take good care of your health. But you should do that anyway.
Even if you have miracle genes that say you’ll live to be 95, you should still take good care of your health. Don’t depend on your genes to overcome poor health habits. Don’t let them make you overconfident.