Genetic Testing - 4/30/08
Intro: Science has made great strides in the study of human genes. Soon, doctors should be able to predict whether you are likely to develop cancer, diabetes, or Alzheimer's. The good news is that this information will enable doctors to begin treatment at the earliest possible time. But the bad new is that gene testing may threaten your personal privacy rights. Here to explain is Attorney Michael Solomon.
Jeff: What risks does genetic testing create?
Mike: Health insurance premiums paid by employers are skyrocketing. Already, some companies have begun screening job applicants so they can hire healthier employees. Imagine being turned down for a job because a genetic test shows you're prone to developing diabetes in the future.
And just when you think it's already tough to get health insurance, try this. Health insurers would love to use genetic testing to deny coverage, or at least increase premiums, for applicants who appear likely to get certain diseases.
Jeff: Are there any laws that protect people?
Mike: There are a few legal protections that exist, but not much. For example, there's NO law that prohibits an employer from making hiring decisions based on genetic screening. However Ohio law does bar insurance companies that issue group health insurance policies from considering genetic information, but the law does not cover individual health insurance policies. And no law prohibits companies from using genetics to deny life or long term care insurance coverage.
Jeff: Is there any new legislation coming?
Mike: Last year the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill which contains some new privacy protections. For example, it would stop employers from using genetic information when making decisions on hiring, firing, promotion or other job decisions. And it would prohibit health insurers from denying coverage or raising premiums based on genetic tests.
This bill is not yet the law; it must still pass the Senate and be signed by the President. If your interested, now would be a good time to contact Senator Sherrod Brown at 202-224-2315 and Senator George Voinovich at 202-224-3353.