HOUSE PASSES BILL BANNING WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION BASED ON GENETIC INFORMATION

by Patricia A. Schaeffer, Vice President-Regulatory Affairs

The House overwhelmingly passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493) on April 25 by a 420-3 vote. The bill was introduced January 16, 2007 by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who first sponsored a genetic nondiscrimination bill 12 years ago. The bill was approved by the House Committee on Education and Labor on February 15.

The legislation prohibits an employer from using genetic information in making hiring, firing or promotion decisions. A health plan or insurer would be prohibited from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to a healthy person based solely on a genetic predisposition to a disease.

Key Provisions Include:

  • Makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, employment agency, labor organization or training program to discriminate against an individual or deprive such individual of employment opportunities because of genetic information.

  • Prohibits the collection and disclosure of genetic information, with certain exceptions.

  • Expands prohibition against discrimination by group health plans and health insurance issuers in the group and individual markets on the basis of genetic information or services to prohibit genetic and premium discrimination based on information about a request for a receipt of genetic services; and requiring genetic testing.

  • Extends medical privacy and confidentiality rules to the disclosure of genetic information.

A companion bill (S. 358) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on January 22, 2007 and is pending.

The White House issued a statement of administrative policy in support of the House bill saying “Concern about unwarranted use of genetic information threatens the utilization of existing genetic tests as well as the ability to conduct further research.”

DCI will provide further updates as information becomes available.

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