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May 05, 2008
Landmark Genetic Discrimination Bill Passed
Employers and health insurers would be prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their genetic information, under landmark legislation recently approved by Congress.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) would prohibit enrollment restriction and premium adjustment based on genetic information or services; discrimination on the basis of genetic information in hiring, compensation, and other personnel issues; and the collection of genetic information by employers, according to a statement from the bill's Senate sponsors, Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine).

In addition, the legislation would bar health plans and insurers from requesting or requiring that an individual take a genetic test; would allow genetic testing by employers in very limited circumstances, such as when necessary to monitor the adverse effects of hazardous workplace exposures; and, in cases where employers possess genetic information, would require them to keep the information confidential and disclose only to the individual employee or under other tightly controlled circumstances.

Kennedy called the bill "the first major new civil rights bill of the new century," while Enzi said "[i]t protects both employees and employers by setting a standard of conduct that is easy to understand and easy to follow."

The House of Representatives, which passed a companion bill in April 2007, approved the Senate version, and the President is expected to sign it into law, according to a statement from Snowe.

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