New bill may give employers a mandate solicit genetic information

A controversial new bill to debated by US Congress may pave the way for companies to ‘fine’ employees for failing to provide genetic information.

The bill, labelled the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, has been described by its supporters as a continuation and clarification of the wellness program policies outlined in the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act.

Yet according to its critics, it could allow bosses pressure their employees to undergo genetic tests, and demand to see the results. Employers could even ask to see test results and medical histories for family members, with workers facing up to a 30% increase in their insurance if they refuse.

“[The Bill] means that an employee has virtually no control over their own genetic information”, State College lawyer Jennifer Wagner told The Atlantic.

The bill was approved last Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, with a spokesperson saying that it “reaffirms wellness program policies reflected in the Affordable Care Act and provides uniformity to the regulations governing those programs”.

Those involved in genetics research have also expressed concern that individuals may no longer participating in genetic testing, due to fears that their employers will request the data.

“People might not want to benefit from clinical advances out of fear of genetic discrimination,” Derek Scholes, director of science policy at the American Society of Human Genetics, told The Atlantic.

Last week BioEdge reported on newly passed Canadian legislation, which prohibits ‘genetic discrimination’ by employers.


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