US moves closer to prohibiting genetic discrimination

30 April 2007

On April 25th, the US House of Representatives passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007 (GINA)  with a 420-3 majority in favour. The Senate has yet to approve the Act, but is likely to do so; there have been two previous attempts to introduce legislation to prevent genetic discrimination that were approved unanimously by the Senate but not the House of Representatives (see previous news story). The new Act, if it passes into law, will prevent employers and insurers (including health plan providers) from discrimination on the basis of genetic information – increasing premiums or denying coverage solely on the basis of genetic information. However, the prohibitions do not apply to diseases that are already present in individuals. New rules relating to confidentiality for genetic information are also introduced by the legislation.

A new publication from the Genetics and Public Policy Center of John Hopkins University, U.S. Public Opinion On Use of Genetic Information and Genetic Discrimination, reportedly indicates that three-quarters of US citizens support such legislation, although the vast majority are in favour of using genetic information to improve health. The White House has also expressed support for the Act, but some commercial groups have expressed concern.

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