Thumbs down for genetic apartheid

Apr 30 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

In a rare show of support for the American people, the US House of Representatives passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act almost unanimously.

I say "almost" because there were still three congressmen who voted against the bill. I won't rake Congressmen Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, and Ed Royce over the coals yet, because I've been unable to find out why they didn't join 420 bi-partisan colleagues to pass it.

H.R. 493 – which could also have been called the "I Can't Believe We Actually Need a Law to Make This Illegal" Act – prevents companies and insurance companies from using your genetic makeup when making both human resource (employment) or health insurance coverage decisions - which is great news for companies as well as their employees.

Ask the CEO of any company – from small, family-run businesses to Fortune 500 companies – what expense has skyrocketed in recent years, and they will most likely tell you health insurance premiums for their employees.

But thanks to GINA, health insurance carriers are barred from requiring genetic tests when fixing premiums for group plans or asking plan members to submit to genetic testing. Perhaps it might even prevent companies from using the tired old meme that it costs more to hire not-so-fit employees – although I'm not sure what their criteria are because my applications as a salaried employee have never asked about my weight…

Of all the things that a candidate looking for a job should be worrying about, his or her family's health history shouldn't be one of them. So, while good things rarely happen quickly in Washington DC, occasionally they do come! Let's just hope that the Senate manages a similar vote once this bill hits the floor.