House Should Move on Genetic Testing Discrimination Ban Legislation, Editorial States
The House should move on a version of a bill (S 1053) that would ban discrimination against individuals by employers and insurers based on their genetic information, according to a Washington Post editorial (Washington Post, 4/26). The bill, which the Senate voted 95-0 to approve last October, has remained stalled in the House. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), would mandate that employers could not use genetic information when they decide whether to hire employees and would allow employers to collect such information only to monitor adverse effects that result from the workplace. The bill would establish guidelines for employers to use the genetic information of employees to monitor such effects. The bill also would mandate that insurers could not raise premiums or deny coverage based on genetic information and could not require genetic tests from policyholders. The legislation defines genetic tests as those that could indicate a predisposition to future illnesses and not those that diagnose current illnesses. In cases of alleged genetic discrimination, employees could file complaints first with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and subsequently in federal court (California Healthline, 4/20). The editorial calls arguments against the legislation "unconvincing and contradictory." Although employers maintain that genetic discrimination is only a "theoretical concern," the editorial states that the "issue is the chilling effect of worries about how genetic tests could be used, or misused," which "presents as much of a problem -- probably more -- as any actual discrimination." Meanwhile, according to the editorial, insurers maintain that they do not use genetic information in coverage decisions and would accept the Senate bill. The editorial concludes, "That's welcome news. Even more welcome would be some sign of movement in the House" (Washington Post, 4/26).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.