Sunday, May 4, 2008

Anti-genetic discrimination bill approved!

This bill was approved by both houses of Congress during April, 2008 and now awaits President Bush's signature to become law. He is expected to sign it next week. The official name is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. First, the bill prohibits health insurance companies from using genetic information to determine if people may enroll or the set their premiums. Secondly, employers can not use genetic information to make decisions about hiring, promoting, or firing employees. I was strongly in favor of this federal legislation and I am happy to see this become federal law. This should protect people and encourage them to have certified genetic testing. There are many valid tests that people have been afraid to take for fear of retaliation. [Addendum, President Bush signed this bill into law on 5/21/08.]

The next phase is formal oversight of genetic tests. Currently, over 1,500 tests are marketed with minimal proficiency testing. A federal committee recommended a mandatory registry of genetic tests, proficiency checks for all tests, and the ability for the government to be able to take appropriate action against labs that lack proper certification. I support this proposed legislation and I am waiting to see the final wording in the proposed bill. Meanwhile, my advice to patients is to choose the lab for genetic tests very carefully. It's the wild, wild, unsupervised west out there.

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