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Bill would allow companies to collect employee genetics information

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By Jared Leone

Cox Media Group National Content Desk

A bill making its way through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or force them to pay a large penalty to opt out of the “voluntary” screenings.

The genetic privacy act, GINA, passed in 2008, protects personal genetics information; however, this bill classifies the screenings as a voluntary workplace wellness program, which have been allowed previously through the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, HR 1313, called the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, would allow employers to charge up to 30 percent of the premium to enrollees who opt out.

The American Society of Human Genetics, which oversees ethical and practical guidelines surrounding DNA information, said the bill would undermine genetic privacy protections.

“A key component of ADA and GINA is that they prevent workers and their families from being coerced into sharing sensitive medical or genetic information with their employer,” the group said in a statement. “For GINA, genetic information encompasses not only employees’ genetic test results but also their family medical histories. H.R.1313 would effectively repeal these protections by allowing employers to ask employees invasive questions about their and their families’ health, including genetic tests they, their spouses, and their children may have undergone. GINA’s requirement that employees’ genetic information collected through a workplace wellness program only be shared with health care professionals would no longer apply.”

The bill was approved by a House committee Wednesday. Even if it fails to move forward, it is expected to be added to a revised ACA-related measure, according to NPR.

“Those who are opposed to the bill are spreading false information in a desperate attempt to deny employees the choice to participate in a voluntary program that can reduce health insurance costs and encourage healthy lifestyle choices,” a spokeswoman for the committee told CNBC.

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