WASHINGTON (30 May 2008) -- Legislation that IEEE-USA has long supported protecting people from discrimination in employment and health insurance based on genetic information was recently signed into law.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) passed the House, 414-1, and the Senate, 95-0. President Bush signed the bill on 21 May. IEEE-USA President Dr. Russell Lefevre expressed his appreciation in a letter (http://www.ieeeusa.org/policy/policy/2008/052108b.pdf) to one of the bill's key sponsors, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
"The overwhelming bipartisan support for this historic legislation is indicative of the commitment by you and other congressional leaders toward ensuring our nation's future in a rapidly changing world," Lefevre wrote.
GINA prevents health insurance companies from changing, canceling or denying coverage based solely on a person's genetic predisposition to a specific disease or disorder.
Advances in genetic testing have made possible early detection of a wide range of diseases with hereditary links, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer. Yet, people have increasingly been reluctant to undergo these potentially life-saving tests for fear that the information could be used against them.
GINA also prevents employers from basing hiring, firing and promotion decisions on genetic information. They are also forbidden from requesting, requiring or disclosing such information. Employment agencies and labor organizations are bound by similar provisions.
Bush said the law "protects our citizens from having genetic information misused, and does so without undermining the basic premise of the insurance industry." See http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/05/20080521-7.html.
IEEE-USA has advocated nondiscrimination in the use of genetic information for more than a decade. The organization is a member of the Coalition for Genetic Fairness, which was founded in 2000 "to address the growing concern surrounding the misuse of genetic information in insurance and employment decisions."
|Contact: Chris McManes|