NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, previously stalled in the US Congress for more than a decade, was marked up in the House of Representatives for the first time yesterday.
The bill, known as GINA, was introduced in the House 12 years ago by Rep. Louise Slaughter. Political opposition had prevented it from ever coming to a vote in the House, even though it had been unanimously approved by the Senate on two separate occasions.
“Today's action is the first time a House Committee has marked up genetic nondiscrimination legislation,” Slaughter said in a statement. The bill was marked up by the House Committee on Education and Labor.
The bill, also known as H.R. 493, aims to bar insurance companies and employers from discriminating against people based on genetic information. It must still be considered in the Energy and Commerce Committees and the Ways and Means Committee.
GINA was re-introduced to the House on Jan. 16 by Slaughter, a Democrat from New York, and Rep. Judy Biggert, a Republican from Illinois. Around 150 representatives co-sponsored the bill.
According to Slaughter and Biggert, GINA will make it illegal for group health insurers to deny coverage to healthy people based “solely on a genetic predisposition to a specific disease,” and will forbid employers from using genetic information “when making hiring, firing, job placement or promotion decisions.”
In a Democratically controlled Congress the bill appears to have improved chances for getting passed. The measure has garnered broad popular support, has the Bush Administration’s backing, and is supported by a majority of genetic counselors.