Minggu, 01 Juni 2008

GINA Finally Passes

After thirteen years of wrangling and a failed attempt last year (see this blog, May 8, 2007), Congress finally passed the long-awaited Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). President Bush signed it into law on May 21, 2008.

GINA makes it illegal for health insurers to deny coverage or raise premiums based on genetic information. It also prohibits employers from using genetic information in making decisions regarding job assignments, promotion, hiring, or firing. Patients and health care workers had been pushing for the bill for years, claiming that people were afraid to take genetic tests, such as the one for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, because they were afraid of being denied insurance coverage or a job should they test positive.

Why did it take so long for the bill to pass? Some lawmakers, most notably Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, were worried that the bill would create a windfall for trial lawyers as people sued insurance companies and employers over alleged discrimination in health care coverage. The final bill addresses that question to everyone’s satisfaction, apparently.

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