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Bush Signs Bill Barring Genetic Discrimination

May 21, 2008
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Related Topics: Medical Benefits Law, Benefit Design and Communication, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Latest News
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President Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act into law Wednesday, May 21.

The new law prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against workers on the basis of genetic information. It also bans health insurers or group health plans from basing eligibility determinations or adjusting premiums or contributions on the basis of genetic information, and it forbids the disclosure of genetic information.

The new law “protects our citizens from having genetic information misused, and this bill does so without undermining the basic premise of the insurance industry,” President Bush said in a statement released by the White House shortly after he signed the bill.

The president of America’s Health Insurance Plans issued a statement praising the action.

“With this landmark bipartisan legislation, Congress and the president have taken strong action to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s genetic makeup and to protect patients’ privacy as they pursue genetic evaluations,” said AHIP president Karen Ignagni. “This legislation also ensures that patients can continue to benefit from health plans’ innovative early detection and care coordination programs that improve the safety and quality of care.”

A longtime proponent of the law said its enactment would promote better disease management.

“Individuals no longer have to worry about being discriminated against on the basis of their genetic information, and with this assurance, the promise of genetic testing and disease management and prevention can be realized more fully,” Sharon Terry, president of the Coalition for Genetic Fairness, said in a statement.

The legislation prohibiting genetic discrimination has been in the works for nearly a decade.

Filed by Mark A. Hofmann of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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