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Genetic Nondiscrimination Bill Approved

Posted by medliorator on May 3, 2008

A bill that would prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes won final approval in Congress on Thursday by an overwhelming vote.

The legislation, known as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, prohibits health insurance companies from using genetic information to deny benefits or raise premiums for individual policies. (It is already illegal to exclude individuals from a group plan because of their genetic profile.) Employers who use genetic information to make decisions about hiring, firing or compensation could be fined as much as $300,000 for each violation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce still opposed it, arguing that the fines were excessive and that its limits on the collection of medical information would complicate even routine practices, like recording a request by an employee to take a leave to take care of a parent with cancer.

The health insurance measure would not go into effect until a year after it becomes law, and the employment measure would take effect only after 18 months. Even then, there may be reason to be cautious. The bill may be hard to enforce, some experts say, and it does not address discrimination by long-term care insurers or life insurers.

Congress Passes Bill to Bar Bias Based on Genes [NYT]

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