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Sick Days, 401(k)s, and Genetic Screening

More and more companies are offering genetic screening as a benefit to their employees, the New York Times reports. But, it adds, that a number of experts say such testing isn't beneficial for the general public.

Companies like Levi Strauss & Company, Nvidia, OpenTable, Salesforce, SAP, and Visa, among others, now offer their employees genetic screening through Color Genomics, the Times reports. It adds that the companies hope that the test results motivate employees to take preventive health steps as well as catch cancers and other conditions that could cost them millions in healthcare costs. Nvidia tells the Times that 27 percent of its eligible employees took the test, while SAP says 17 percent of its eligible population did.

But the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Jonathan Berg tells the Times such tests may be of little value to people with average disease risk. The paper notes that most cancers aren't caused by hereditary mutations in single genes that are tested, and the results could lead people to undergo unnecessary treatments or skip recommended screening tests. Color tells the Times that it tells users that they may still develop disease even if no harmful mutations are uncovered.

"In the long-term view of a program like this, it's going to pay for itself," Jason Russell, who is in charge of employee compensation and benefits for SAP North America, tells the Times, adding "You are creating good will with employees."