US Senate Oks Genetic Anti-Discrimination Measure

October 14, 2003 ( - The United States Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to safeguard the privacy of genetic information and bar discrimination in health insurance and employment on the basis of a person's genetic profile.

>S 1053, The Genetics Non-Discrimination Act, now moves to the US House of Representatives for consideration.

It prohibits insurers from raising premiums or denying coverage based on the results of a genetic test. The bill, which enjoys White House support, would likewise prevent employers from using genetic information in hiring and would allow companies to collect such data only to monitor adverse effects resulting from the workplace.

Under the measure, it would be illegal for insurers to raise premiums or deny coverage based on genetic test results, and insurers could not require genetic tests. Critics of the bill counter that the legislation is unnecessary because genetic discrimination is not occurring, but proponents argue that fear of discrimination is discouraging individuals from getting tests that could indicate susceptibility to some health conditions.

“This bill establishes in federal law basic legal protections to enable and encourage individuals to take advantage of genetic screening, counseling, testing and new therapies,” said US Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and a bill co-sponsor. “…Today we are bringing public policy up to date with science and its recent breakthroughs.   We do this to ensure that every American can benefit from our scientific progress without the worry of genetic discrimination.”