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Genetic Information Bill Moves Ahead In Hawaii

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NU Online News Service, April 12, 2:59 p.m. – The Hawaii Senate and the Hawaii House are trying to iron out the differences between two versions of Senate Bill 2180, a bill that would prohibit genetic discrimination by employers and state-regulated health insurers.

Lawmakers are still debating the exact wording of the section governing genetic discrimination in employment, but the sections governing health insurance are identical.

Both versions would prohibit health insurers and fraternal benefit societies from using genetic information about an individual or an individual’s relatives to deny health coverage, limit coverage, or establish eligibility, continuation, enrollment or premium payments.

One section says the bill, “shall not apply to any action taken in connection with policies of life insurance, disability income insurance, and long-term care insurance delivered or issued for delivery in this state.”

Another section bill defines both “genetic test” and “genetic information,” stating that “‘genetic information’ means information about genes, gene products, hereditary susceptibility to disease, or inherited characteristics that may derive from the individual or family member.”

The House passed its version of S.B. 2180 49-0 April 9, and the Senate passed its version 25-0 March 5.

The original version of the Senate bill, which was introduced by Sen. Bob Nakata, D-Kahuka, would have applied to all types of insurance, but it would have prohibited only the use of genetic lab tests.

Historically, many insurance trade groups have been willing to consider the idea of restrictions on insurer use of genetic lab tests, but some have argued in favor of protecting insurers’ right to ask about the health of parents and other close relatives.