Genetic Anti-Discrimination Bill

In an amazing show of unity, the Senate passed the bill unanimously and the House only had one Nay. President Bush signed it into Law on May 22, 2008. The bill has been a long time coming and bars health insurers from asking for or using genetic information to make a decision about whether to cover a person or how high to set the premiums.

Although there were already some protections for insureds with group health insurance under existing federal law, those who are self-employed and buy their own coverage previously had no guarantees that their genetic information would not be used against them.

One component in particular is a big benefit because it keeps an insurer from raising premiums for a group insured as a small business just because one member has a genetic predisposition to a particular illness or malady.

The legislation is impressive in that it is the first foray into the field of genetic civil rights. Each of us is predisposed to living a certain length of time, going bald, being able to curl our tongue or being a carrier for a particularly virulent type of breast cancer and health insurers know it. Health insurers look at many factors to assess risk including age, occupation, smoking etc. This legislation has drawn a bright line beyond which no insurer can look to prevent insurers from providing coverage to the least vulnerable and leaving everyone else out in the cold. What do you think about it?