GENETIC PRIVACY: Genome Head Urges Congress to Act
Francis Collins, director of the national Human Genome Research Institute, yesterday urged Congress to "act quickly" in protecting Americans from genetic discrimination by insurers and employers, CongressDaily reports. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) last month offered an amendment to the FY 2001 Labor-HHS appropriations bill that would prohibit insurers from raising premiums or denying coverage on the basis of genetic tests. His bill was defeated, 54-44. Speaking before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Collins said that because of discrimination qualms, people "are reluctant to undergo genetic testing -- potentially forgoing benefits to themselves and hindering further research." Collins joined Paul Miller of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in rejecting HELP Chair James Jeffords' (R-Vt.) contention that the Americans with Disabilities Act "adequately protects" individuals from employment discrimination. Daschle also testified before the committee, asserting that his bill "embodies the recommendations made in 1998" by the Labor, Justice and HHS Departments, as well as the EEOC. He added, "Federal workers already have every one of these rights, under an executive order signed by President Clinton. My bill simply extends them to private sector employees." But Susan Meisinger of the Society for Human Resource Management said the bill "goes too far" because its "broad definition of genetic information" could prevent physicians from asking about family history during a pre-employment physical. Meisinger added that the bill departs from existing antidiscrimination laws because it fails to require complaints to go through the EEOC first and allows unlimited damages (Rovner, 7/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.