The measure protects healthy individuals who are predisposed to a genetic disorder by prohibiting employers from refusing to hire or promote them and prohibiting health plans and health insurers from charging them higher premiums or refusing to a cover them altogether.
The bill – H.R. 493 – has been twice approved by the Senate (See Genetic Discrimination Bill Passes US Senate ) and received a nod from the President, but both times been stifled in the House. This time around, however, the bill passed with a near-unanimous 420 to 3 vote.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was reintroduced in January by Representative Judy Biggert (R-Illinois) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-New York) (See House Genetic Protection Bill Reintroduced by Bipartisan Group ). The two lawmakers said that removing the threat of genetic discrimination will make people less reluctant to take part in genetic research and testing.
“We will never unlock the great promise of the Human Genome Project if Americans are too paranoid to get genetic testing,” said Biggert, in a Web statement in January. “Without the protections offered by H.R. 493, these fears will persist, research at NIH will slow, and Americans will never realize the benefits of gene-based medicines.”
According to Reuters, the White House has again thrown its support behind the bill: “The administration wants to work with Congress to further perfect this legislation and to make genetic discrimination illegal and provide individuals with fair, reasonable protections against improper use of their genetic information,” the White House said in a statement.