Senate To Consider Bill To Ban Discrimination by Employers, Insurers Based on Genetic Tests
The Senate is "poised to pass" a bill (S 1053) that would prohibit employers and insurance companies from discriminating against people based on their genetic histories, the Wall Street Journal reports (McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 10/3). The legislation, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and supported by the White House, would establish new privacy standards for genetic information. The bill would prevent employers from using genetic information in hiring and would allow companies to collect such data only to monitor adverse effects resulting from the workplace (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 5/22). The bill also would make it illegal for insurers to raise premiums or deny coverage based on genetic test results and would prohibit insurers from requiring genetic tests. Critics of the bill counter that the legislation is unnecessary because genetic discrimination is not occurring, but proponents of the legislation say fear of discrimination is discouraging individuals from getting genetic tests that could indicate susceptibility to some health conditions (Wall Street Journal, 10/3).
The Senate will take up the legislation Oct. 14, Congress Daily/AM reports. The bill likely will be considered by unanimous consent, according to a spokesperson for Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) (Congress Daily/AM, 10/3). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the bill unanimously in May, but it stalled because of a dispute over language in the bill's introduction. However, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- who is the committee's ranking member -- and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on Thursday announced that they had reached a compromise on the language with Frist and Senate HELP Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). The Journal notes that similar legislation introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) is pending in the House, but the outlook there is "much less clear" (Wall Street Journal, 10/3).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.