House Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Genetic Privacy Legislation
A House subcommittee yesterday heard testimony on legislation that would prevent genetic discrimination against people in the United States by their employers and insurers, the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Privacy advocates told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution that employers could use genetic information as the basis for hiring, firing or promoting a worker, while insurance companies might use such information to determine charges for specific services or to deny coverage for particular illnesses. Joanne Hustead, a lawyer for the Health Privacy Project at Georgetown University, said that Congress should pass a law that would require people to give permission before their genetic information is released (Holland, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 9/13). Hustead added that because the collection and use of genetic information are "inextricably linked," the "best way to protect privacy is to prevent the collection of information in the first place." Legislation that would regulate the use of genetic information has "broad support" in Congress but has not been approved for several years, CongressDaily/AM reports (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 9/13). Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said that 31 states bar employers from discriminating based on genetic information and 41 states have laws prohibiting insurers from such discrimination (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 9/13). Opponents of such laws said the requirements could allow people to lie about known health conditions. "One's right to privacy should not include the right to misrepresent oneself to the rest of the world, particularly in the case of making statements to one's health insurer or employer that one knows to be false," Tom Miller of the Cato Institute said. John Rowe, CEO and chair of Aetna, added that genetic privacy legislation should not prevent insurers from collecting information that could benefit a patient's health care (CongressDaily/AM, 9/13).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.