Legislative Update: Senate Passes Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

The United States Senate voted 95-0 to pass the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act yesterday. That bill, which President Bush is expected to sign, would bar insurers from asking or using genetic information to make a decision about coverage or to set premiums. Under the bill, insurers would be prohibited from raising premiums for a group because one or more members have genes that would predispose them to an illness. That provision is important for small employers that offer health coverage because a sudden increase in rates can lead to the cancelation of coverage altogether.

Equally significant for employers is the fact that the bill prohibits employers, unions and employment agencies from requesting or using genetic information for hiring, promotions, assignments or firing. According to Sharon Terry, president of the Genetic Alliance, “genetics will be protected just like race, religion and gender.” Senator Snow (R-Maine) agreed stating that “we are on the threshold of a new era, because for the first time we act to prevent discrimination before it takes hold. We are taking a stand that, as we look to the future, genetic discrimination will not be allowed to flourish, to take root.” For more information on this bill click here.
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