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Genetic Nondiscrimination

April 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

(Cross-posted from SENATUS)

The Senate has passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act by a vote of 95 (Y) to 0 (N). This bill was passed by the House in April of last year. The bill has had somewhat of an odd journey in Congress bouncing back and forth between the House and Senate for some 13 years. It hadn’t previously passed both the House and Senate in the same session of Congress. The Senate recently passed the bill in 2003 and 2005 by an overwhelming margin.

The bill had previously been held up by Senator Coburn (R-OK). The New York Times reports on his reason for objecting:

>One of Senator Coburn’s main concerns was that the bill might subject employers to civil rights lawsuits stemming from disputes over medical coverage. And employers that also finance their own health insurance, he said, might be sued twice. “We would have created a trial lawyers’ bonanza,” he said.
>Senator Coburn, a medical doctor, had called for a “firewall” between the employer and insurance sections of the bill. “We withstood all the criticism we got from lots of people, and now we got it fixed,” he said.
>Proponents of the bill say the negotiated changes do not affect the substance of the legislation.

  • forbids insurance companies from denying coverage or raising premiums based on genetic information
  • forbids insurers and employers from requiring a person to submit to genetic testing
  • forbids discrimination against any person based on their personal or family genetic information
  • prohibits labor organizations from denying membership based on genetic information
  • prohibits the disclosure or purchase of genetic information by insurers or health planning companies

For more information on the vote and the contents of the measure, you can read this article provided by Reuters.

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