House GOP bill would let employers require genetic tests
Under a little-noticed bill that moved through the House Education and Workforce committee on March 8, employers would be able to require employees to submit genetic testing results as part of a wellness program or risk paying a major penalty.
Existing federal laws protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination from employers, such as the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law called GINA. The HR1313 bill, on the other hand, would give employers a loophole around these barriers, stating GINA and other protections don’t apply when genetic tests are part of a work wellness program.
All 22 republicans on the Education and Workforce committee supported the bill, while all 17 democrats were opposed. The bill has been overshadowed by the repeal and replace bill, the American Health Care Act.
HR1313 is currently under review by other House committees and must still be reviewed and passed by Senate. It’s already facing major opposition.
On March 7, about 70 organizations - including health, consumer and medical advocacy groups - wrote to the committee, criticizing the bill for undermining GINA and the American Disabilities Act.
“These provisions of GINA and ADA protecting privacy in the workplace were carefully crafted to ensure that employers can only obtain or request protected genetic and medical information when the employee voluntarily provides it,” the authors wrote. “With respect to employees’ genetic information, the change would be particularly dramatic.”
“Allowing penalties of this magnitude would clearly allow employers to coerce employees into revealing their private genetic information,” they continued. “Workplace wellness programs are fully able to encourage healthy behaviors within the current legal framework: They need not collect and retain private genetic and medical information to be effective.”
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that he feels the bill may cause “significant concerns.” Further, he wasn’t aware of the bill’s passing, but HHS would help change its language if requested.