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Canada to Vote on Genetic Non-Discrimination Bill

A genetic non-discrimination bill is going up for a vote Wednesday in the Canadian Parliament, the Canadian Press reports.

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, also known as Bill S-201, would make it illegal to compel someone to undergo genetic testing or provide genetic testing results in order to receive or continue an insurance policy, or other contract or agreement, it adds.

The bill has faced criticism from insurance groups, which say it will lead to higher costs and reduced coverage. Insurers argued that they could eliminate genetic discrimination on their own, the Canadian Press adds. For instance, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association is changing its code of conduct so that, beginning next year, people applying for coverage worth $250,000 or less don't have to disclose genetic testing results.

Patient and charity groups, meanwhile, support the bill. "This is about exploding genome technology and science, the ability to target treatments, the ability to prevent disease and treat disease much more effectively and the insurance industries will survive," Bev Heim-Myers, chief executive of the Huntington Society of Canada, tells the Canadian Press.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who has shepherded the bill, says it will be a free vote, it adds.