For immediate release: Thursday 16 March 2017
A Bill that would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing and disclose the results to their employers, or risk having to make health insurance payments of thousands of dollars extra, was recently approved by the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposing.
Genetic tests can predict health risks. In the US, where companies cover significant parts of the health insurance of their employees they may, understandably, want to minimise these risks. In the past, however, decisions on whether or not to undergo genetic testing have been the voluntary choices of individuals. Both the Council of Europe and the US law (Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act, GINA) uphold this standpoint.
The European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) defends the principle that employees should be employed on the basis of their skills and expertise, and not on their future health risks. This Bill has apparently been integrated into the activities related to the revision of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obama Care. Transparency is needed on the potential decision to discontinue the GINA. The genetic and health information of individuals needs protection,” said Professor Martina Cornel, chair of the ESHG Public and Professional Policy Committee.