The major UK health insurers have not ruled out the use of genetic information in the future following the government's decision to allow the of use genetic information in setting life insurance premiums.

Bupa, PPP Healthcare, Western Provident Association (WPA) and BCWA Healthcare said they were keeping an eye on the issue for potential effects on the sector.

Last Friday the government announced that its Genetic and Insurance Committee had decided a test for a hereditary risk of Huntington's disease was reliable.

It gave the go-ahead for life insurers to use the test for the disease to refuse cover or increase premiums.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said it could not guarantee that insurers would not eventually use genetic tests to set health insurance premiums.

At present the Data Protection Act forbids insurers from exchanging such sensitive information between their life and health arms.

Bupa said it did not request genetic information from its customers but would monitor developments on the issue.

A spokeswoman said: "Bupa is constantly reviewing its policy on genetic information and will examine any future decisions by the Genetics and Insurance Committee to assess the implications for its customers and business."

A spokesman for PPP Healthcare said the company had no plans to use genetic tests at present.

"But we don't rule out the possibility that we might reconsider our position if it was appropriate to do so in light of future developments," he said.

WPA communications director David Ashdown said the association was adopting a wait-and-see approach.

"WPA has always subscribed to full underwriting, but there are no immediate plans," he said.

BCWA Healthcare commercial manager Richard Esler said BCWA had no plans to use genetic tests.

"At some stage, things may change but I wouldn't want to put a timescale on it," he said.

"It could be years away or it could be never."

The government will decide on six more diseases put forward by the ABI, in consultation with its genetics advisor Doctor Sandy Raeburn, over the coming months.

Those diseases are hereditary Alzheimer's, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis, myotonic dystrophy, multiple endocrine neoplasia and hereditary motor and sensor neuropathy.

The ABI spokesman said there were no plans to increase the list of diseases.