Canada's life insurers say they are preparing to adjust the industry's code of conduct so consumers will no longer be required to disclose genetic testing information when applying for new coverage worth $250,000 or less.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) says a majority of individual policies issued each year to consumers will be affected by the change, which will be in place by Jan. 1, 2018. It says 85 per cent of policies issued are for less than $250,000 of coverage.

CLHIA president Frank Swedlove says the industry is responding to concerns raised about the amount of personal information insurers can gather from genetic tests, which have become increasingly common and affordable in recent years.

He says the industry doesn't require new genetic testing during the application process, but customers must share the results of any medical information — including genetics — when buying new policies.

Industry self-regulation pre-empts federal legislation

Swedlove says Canada's life insurers aren't in favour of federal legislation, currently before Parliament, that would impose limits on how much genetic information can be collected.

Instead, he says, the industry is voluntarily restricting its members to collecting genetic test results for individual insurance coverage of $250,000 or more — a requirement that Swedlove says is necessary to manage the industry's financial risks.

"Our goal is to continue to ensure that all Canadians can access insurance at fair and reasonable prices," Swedlove says.

Swedlove says it will take time to train Canada's 95,000 agents who sell life insurance, who are mostly independents working with one or more of the CLHIA's members.