BLOOMFIELD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cigna (NYSE: CI) is building on the success of its genetic counseling program and expanding it to include additional genetic tests. Starting July 15, as a condition of coverage, Cigna will require genetic counseling with an independent board-certified genetics specialist for customers who are considering genetic testing for:
- Whole exome sequencing (WES), a complex genetic test that analyzes all of the genes and their coding sections called exons – together called the “exome;”
- Hereditary cancers in addition to breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancer;
- Hereditary heart disease in addition to long QT syndrome;
- Pediatric microarray analysis for children with certain developmental delays or intellectual disabilities.
Cigna began its genetic counseling program in 2013 for customers undergoing genetic testing for hereditary breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer and for a hereditary heart condition known as long QT syndrome. It was the first national health service company to require genetic counseling before approving coverage for genetic tests that are complex and frequently misunderstood.
Since then, more than 32,000 Cigna customers have had genetic counseling through the program and the average number of monthly claims for genetic counseling has more than doubled. According to customer satisfaction data1 from InformedDNA, Cigna's genetic counseling service partner, nearly 95 percent of customers say they are satisfied with the service. Ninety-five percent say they feel more informed about their genetic risks while 94 percent say they can make informed decisions about their hereditary risks. Ninety-seven percent said their genetic counselor was willing and able to answer their questions and discuss their concerns.
A Cigna customer from Virginia wrote to the company about her experience with genetic counseling for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer: “The counselor was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions and concerns. I felt like I made my decision to have the testing based on information that was specific to my family history and not national statistics. I learned more about my family history in gathering information to discuss with my counselor. I think in my case the genetic counseling was beneficial and I would recommend it to others in a high risk category.”
As science advances, the number of genetic tests available is growing exponentially. That’s creating a state of bewilderment for individuals as they struggle to understand what genetic tests they should or shouldn’t have. Multiple tests are often bundled together in a panel, and while one test in the panel might be appropriate for an individual, others might not be. Genetic counseling aims to minimize the confusion and arm people with information that helps them make health care decisions based on clinical guidelines and their individual circumstances.
“There’s a lot of information directed at consumers that can be very confusing,” said Jeffrey F. Hankoff, M.D., Cigna's medical officer for clinical performance and quality. “Just because a genetic test is available doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone; what’s appropriate for an individual depends on family medical history and risk factors. Counseling from an independent, board-certified genetics specialist can help individuals make informed decisions about having a potentially life-altering test and can also help them understand the health implications of their test results.”
Cigna developed its genetic testing and counseling program in collaboration with InformedDNA, a company that specializes in genetics and provides telephone genetic counseling by board-certified genetics specialists nationwide.
“With multi-gene/panel testing becoming increasingly common, it’s more important than ever to have specially trained genetics professionals involved in the ordering and interpreting of these complex genetic tests," said David Nixon, CEO of InformedDNA. "The pace of new genetic discoveries is staggering, making it impossible for frontline physicians to stay current. Providing physicians and their patients evidence-based guidance in their decision-making helps deliver better quality care and a better patient experience.”
When considering which genetic tests should be subject to genetic counseling, Cigna reviews evidence-based guidelines from well-known and highly-regarded professional organizations. For example, the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) recommends genetic counseling as the standard of care for whole exome sequencing and the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) recommends it as the standard of care for certain hereditary heart conditions.
Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other related products including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has more than 90 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.
About InformedDNA: InformedDNA helps individuals and healthcare providers accurately interpret family health history and genomics, bringing the promise of personalized healthcare to life. InformedDNA is the authority on the appropriate use of genetic testing – leveraging the expertise of the largest network of independent board-certified genetics specialists to help ensure health plans, hospitals, employers, community clinicians and patients all have access to the highest quality genetic services. InformedDNA's key offerings include clinical genetic counseling, genetic testing utilization management, and personalized hereditary risk assessment and prevention solutions. For more information, visit InformedDNA.com.
1 Source: InformedDNA survey of Cigna customers who used InformedDNA’s genetic counseling services in calendar year 2015.