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Good news! Good news!

Last week the Senate passed the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This week it was passed by the House. It only needs one signature and GINA will become law.

For years, those of us who teach genetics have had to caution students about genetic testing. The biggest reason was the fear that having a genetic test would cause them to lose their health insurance.

There were just too many stories about people who had been denied insurance because they took a genetic test and discovered a predisposition to something like Huntington’s disease or breast cancer.

But now, there will be a law to prohibit employers and health insurers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their genetic information. I’m not sure if this bill covers other forms of insurance, like life insurance, but this is certainly a move in the right direction.

It took 13 years, but it finally seems likely genetic information can be used to empower people and not just to penalize them.


  1. #1 Maxine
    May 2, 2008

    The House vote was 414-1 (with 16 not voting). Curiously, the one vote against the bill was Ron Paul.

  2. #2 TomJoe
    May 2, 2008

    Ron Paul in someone’s pocket? I wonder what his rationalization (if he’s pressed for it) will be for his dissenting vote.

  3. #3 ecoli
    May 3, 2008


    Perhaps Paul voted “no” because it’s the federal government interfering with private contracts.

    However, I’m not sure I agree with this logic, because the constitution clearly gives the federal government the right to intervene in state laws or private contracts that violate natural rights.

  4. #4 ecoli
    May 3, 2008

    The other issue could be that, this would allow the government to collect DNA information, but they’re technically not allowed to use it.

    How long do you think it would take them to come up with another PATRIOT act allowing them to use it after all… but don’t worry, it’s just for “Terrorists.”

    Social security wasn’t supposed to be used to identification either, remember?

    It’s a slippery slope.

  5. #5 jc
    May 4, 2008

    More than great news. Congratulations!

  6. #6 Christopher Smith
    May 8, 2008

    It’s a great thing that this legislation has passed. I just finished my degree in biotech and we were talking about this about 3 weeks ago in our seminar class. It’s good to see that it had no problems passing through.

  7. #7 Josh
    May 14, 2008

    Now the consumer has a legally protected advantage over their insurer – now the consumer knows more about their future than the insurer, so can choose their insurance according (if low risk, don’t worry much about insurance. if high risk, get insurance now!). If genetic testing proves to be very effective at predicting diseases, this could potentially cripple many insurers. More pre-sick people with insurance they do need, less healthy people paying for insurance they don’t need = bankruptcy for insurance agents.

  8. #8 Sandra Porter
    May 14, 2008


    At one time, the idea of insurance was that everyone (healthy or sick) would pay a set amount and that money would be available to help people who got sick.

    Then, insurance companies realized that they could game the system and increase profits by excluding people who were likely to get sick or who already had medical problems (“pre-existing conditions”). Many people feel that this practice is unfair and harmful and thus, we got regulations like HIPPA, to try and even the playing field.

    I doubt that GINA will cause insurance companies to go out of business. What would be nice, would be a shift in business models towards focusing on early diagnosis and prevention. Before GINA, when there was a chance that knowledge of a possible disease would eliminate your chances of getting insurance, we had to ignore the benefits of early diagnosis. Now, with GINA, there are more incentives for looking at preventing disease altogether. A focus on prevention would help both the companies – since prevention is cheaper – and the consumers.

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