WTF: Proposed Bill Would Punnish Employees Who Decline Genetic Testing From Employers

Lena Sun | The Washington Post -- 

Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if a bill approved by a U.S. House committee this week becomes law.

In general, employers don't have that power under existing federal laws, which protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. But a bill passed Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to get around those obstacles if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program.

Such programs — which offer workers a variety of carrots and sticks to monitor and improve their health, such as lowering cholesterol — have become increasingly popular with companies. Some offer discounts on health insurance to employees who complete health-risk assessments. Others might charge people more for smoking. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are allowed to discount health insurance premiums by up to 30 percent — and in some cases 50 percent — for employees who voluntarily participate in a wellness program.

The bill is under review by other House committees and still must be considered by the Senate. But it has already faced strong criticism from a broad array of groups, as well as House Democrats. In a letter sent to the committee earlier this week, nearly 70 organizations— representing consumer, health and medical advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes and the National Women's Law Center — said the legislation, if enacted, would undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

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