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Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Genetic Discrimination

On April 24, the Senate passed, 95-0, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (H.R. 493), after adopting a substitute amendment offered by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The House approved the bill without the amendment on April 25, 2007 (see The Source, 4/25/07).

The measure would prohibit employers from using individuals’ genetic information when making hiring, firing, job placement, or promotion decisions. It also would make it illegal for group health plans and health insurers to deny coverage to healthy individuals, charge them higher premiums based solely on their genetic predisposition to a specific disease, or require them to take a genetic test. The bill prohibits discrimination based on the genetic information of a family member, the “genetic information of any fetus carried by [a] pregnant woman,” and the genetic information of any “family member utilizing an assisted reproductive technology, including genetic information of any embryo legally held by the individual or family member.”

The substitute amendment clarified the “firewall” the bill creates between insurers and employers to ensure that employers are not held liable for violations made by their insurance companies, and vice versa. The amendment also clarified language about the collection of family medical history.

The House is expected to approve the Senate changes next week.

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