Your Employer Could Ask a Genetic Test from You Under This Law

Male employer writing something on a whiteboard

Under a proposed bill, your employer could virtually force you to take a genetic test to improve their wellness programs.

If a proposed bill gets congressional approval, America’s employees could wave goodbye to their genetic privacy. Under a GOP draft legislation, employees could face fines of thousands of dollars if they refuse to have a genetic test in the workplace.

The Bill Moving Rapidly on the House Floor

The bill has been already approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is now under review by other committees. The bill states that employees who refuse to submit a genetic test to their employees could be deprived of a 30-percent discount in health insurance, which could amount to more than $5,000 per year in lost premiums. The info will be used for the companies’ employee wellness programs.

In 2008, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) tried to protect Americans from genetic discrimination, but business groups claim the law bars employers from running wellness programs that would help keep costs of insurance programs down.

The proponent of the new bill, Rep. Virginia Foxx, thinks the Preserving Wellness Programs Act could work on employees’ benefit. Critics, on the other hand, warn that the new law could open the gates to a Gattaca-like futuristic society in which persons are actively discriminated against based on their genetic makeup. In our time, employers could discriminate against people they hire if the tests show they have a high risk of developing certain health issues.

 It’s a terrible Hobson’s choice between affordable health insurance and protecting one’s genetic privacy,

a spokesperson for the American Society of Human Genetics, which opposes the bill, recently told the press.

Wellness Programs Are Currently Voluntary

GINA bars companies and health insurance providers to discriminate against someone based on genetic testing results with a single exception: if workers willingly provide that information to help boost workplace wellness programs.

These programs are now voluntary and their main purpose is to reduce healthcare costs. They offer employees many perks including $1,000 annual incentives if they do not smoke or stay fit and significant gym discounts.

Under GINA, no employee is compelled to take part in the programs. There are no cash bonuses if they offer the data and no penalties if they refuse to do it. Foxx’s bill, however, will change that. So, employees could lose up to 30% of their employer-sponsored health coverage. The bill’s sponsors claim the law is necessary to keep the costs of healthcare down.
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