NU Online News Service, July 26, 12:35 p.m. – A Senate committee held a hearing on genetic testing, employment and insurance Wednesday without including any testimony from representatives for employers, insurers or actuaries.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, the committee organized the hearing, presented testimony from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, who has introduced S. 318, a bill that would permit consumers to sue insurers and employers over genetic discrimination and violations of genetic privacy rights.
The committee also brought in a worker who talked about what he said was an actual case of an employer using genetic testing to discriminate against him, and a cancer survivor who talked about her worries about possible misuse of genetic testing results.
Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Md., suggested that allowing insurers to ask applicants questions about the health of relatives might be as much of an invasion of privacy as asking applicants directly about the results of genetic tests.
No one gave any detailed testimony about the merits of using genetic testing data and family history information in forecasting insurance claims rates.
The Labor Committee plans to hold a second hearing on genetic testing in September.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., has put a video recording of a Senate hearing on genetic testing on the Web, at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/hcast_index.cfm?display=detail&hc=275
Users need RealPlayer software on their computers to see the Web recording.
The written version of the speakers’ testimony will soon be available on the Senate committee Web site, at http://www.senate.gov/~labor/107hearings/july2001/july2001.htm