Fresh News From Healthcare Hell: New Bill Would Allow Companies to Access Employees' Genetic Info

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Fresh News From Healthcare Hell: New Bill Would Allow Companies to Access Employees' Genetic Info

As the American Health Care Act continues to stumble through the halls of Congress and dominate the news cycle, a second and somewhat inter-related bill is out of committee and moving toward a full vote.

On Wednesday, by a 22-17 vote, Republicans on committee approved a bill which would allow businesses to demand employees take genetic tests or face fines of up to several thousand dollars.

HR 1313 would do this by eroding privacy protections under the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law (GINA) and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, two laws that groups such as the American Benefits Council argue “put at risk the availability and effectiveness of workplace wellness programs.”

Such wellness programs are central to the argument around HR 1313, as they can help employers transfer the cost of health care to employees, like by penalizing them for not taking genetic tests.

While groups such as the American Benefits Council vociferously argue for wellness programs and the genetic testing that ties into them, there’s a somewhat flimsy record on whether or not such programs actually work. As Stat points out in its own reporting, the programs, on average, lose money and save little on medical costs.

Though the information gained by such testings would nominally be private, an assurance of such privacy would be much more difficult at a small business.

And if such basic privacy concerns aren’t enough to consider under the law, there’s also the possibility that the information gained through these required genetic tests could be sold to third-parties as outside companies often run genetic tests.

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