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House Passes Genetic Discrimination Bill Tucked into Mental Health Act

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — A broadly supported piece of legislation drafted to protect Americans from genetic discrimination in the workplace and by health insurance companies, but which has been held up for months by one senator, has passed in the US House of Representatives.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed in the House yesterday as a section of another bill, introduced by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D – RI), that would provide for equity of health insurance coverage for mental disorders and substance abuse-related disorders.

“Given that most mental health diseases are genetically linked, GINA is natural addition” to the mental health bill, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D – NY) said in a statement.

GINA has been introduced in Congress several times over the past decade. Slaughter last year introduced the 2007 version of the bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the House, but Sen. Olympia Snowe’s Senate version stalled out when Sen. Tom Coburn (R – Okla.) used a tactic called a legislative “hold” on the bill.
 
In April of last year, GINA passed the house resoundingly, 420 to 3, and earlier versions had passed in the Senate by votes of 95 to 0 and 98 to 0.

But in September 2007, Sen. Coburn placed the hold on the bill, citing concerns about complications having to do with the definition of “genetic testing” and with the need for legal protections for employers.

The Kennedy-sponsored bill, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007, will now move on to the Senate.

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