NU Online News Service, Oct. 14, 2003, 5:55 p.m. EDT — Washington

Health insurers are criticizing a bill approved today by the Senate that bans the use of genetic information in health insurance underwriting.

“Although this legislation is well-intended, and the sponsors have made every effort to carefully define key terms in the bill, health insurers continue to believe it will only add unnecessary and costly regulatory burdens without, in any way, improving consumer protection,” says Dr. Donald Young, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington.

Young says current federal laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, already prohibit employer-sponsored plans from using genetic information to refuse coverage or charge higher premiums.

The same law also protects purchasers of individual coverage, Young says.

Moreover, Young says, health insurers do not currently use genetic information in determining coverage or setting premiums.

“Given the existing legal protections and the rapidly evolving nature of genetic technology, we believe it is unwise for Congress to adopt any additional legislation at this time,” Young says.

The genetic information bill, S. 1053, defines genetic information as genetic tests of an individual or family member or the occurrence of a disease or disorder in family members.

The bill says insurance companies can neither use this information for underwriting or pricing purposes nor request or purchase genetic information about an insured.

S. 1053 also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of genetic information.

Links to the text of the bill and other information about the bill are available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:s.01053: