Yesterday, the White House Office of the Press Secretary announced that President Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 ("GINA"). The intent of GINA is to protect individuals from employers and insurance companies denying employment, promotions or health coverage to people when genetic tests show they have a predisposition to cancer, heart disease, or other ailments. But critics of the law are concerned that certain provisions are vague and may expose employers and insurers to frivolous lawsuits.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination in Employment ("GINE") Coalition lobbied and prepared numerous letters to Congress to have certain provisions of GINA revised prior to enactment in order to protect employers’ nondiscriminatory practices and legitimate collection and uses of genetic information. According to Michael Eastman, executive director of labor law policy at the US Chamber of Commerce and a member of the GINE Coalition, the group remains concerned that GINA (1) will not preempt inconsistent state laws, (2) will award “excessive” punitive and compensatory damages that will likely encourage “unmeritorious litigation," and (3) lacks exceptions to provisions barring the collection of genetic information.
For a good review of the pros and cons of GINA, see an article published by GenomeWeb Daily News. For a quick and dirty summary of legal provisions of GINA, click and read on . . .
Summary of GINA
- Prohibits group health insurance plans and issuers offering coverage on the group or individual market from basing eligibility determinations or adjusting premiums or contributions on the basis of an individual’s genetic information. Insurance companies cannot request, require or purchase the results of genetic tests, and prohibits them from disclosing personal genetic information.
- Prohibits issuers of Medigap policies from adjusting pricing or conditioning eligibility on the basis of genetic information. They cannot request, require or purchase the results of genetic tests, or disclose genetic information.
- Prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Employers may not request, require or purchase genetic information, and they are also prohibited from disclosing personal genetic information. Similar provisions apply to employment agencies and labor organizations.