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US House Passes Genetic Nondiscrimination Bill; Senate Will Review It Next

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The US House of Representatives yesterday passed legislation that would bar employers and health insurance companies from using an individual’s genetic information for hiring or coverage decision.
 
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination act of 2007, introduced by Representatives Louise Slaughter of New York and Judy Biggert of Illinois, is also expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Bush, said the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.
 
The bill, known as GINA, has been introduced in Congress several times over the past decade.
 
As GenomeWeb Daily News reported in February, GINA would 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.”
 
To coincide with the House’s vote, the GPPC yesterday published results of a recent survey it conducted that showed overwhelming concern by US citizens that their genetic information could be used against them in these situations.
 
The GPPC also found that around 75 percent of Americans would support legislation to protect them from employers and health insurers accessing and using information about them drawn from genetic tests.
 
According to the GPPC, “Despite widespread, longstanding agreement among American citizens and politicians that protection from genetic discrimination should be clear and consistent, an individual’s genetic information is protected only by a largely untested patchwork of state and federal regulations.”
 
In a statement yesterday, Slaughter said that GINA “addresses those fears by prohibiting the improper use of genetic information by a person's employer or insurer.”
 
Slaughter told the House that there already has been “many instances of genetic discrimination, including a case in which a woman “was fired after a genetic test revealed her risk for a lung disorder to a social worker, who despite outstanding performance reviews, was dismissed because of her family history of Huntington's disease.”
 
The Coalition for Genetic Fairness, an advocacy alliance made up of biotech companies and healthcare professionals, yesterday also applauded the House’s passage of the bill.

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