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Health Insurers Want Say On Genetic Testing Ban

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Health insurers are hoping to change a genetic testing discrimination bill as it works its way through the House and Senate.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee already has approved the Senate’s version of the bill, S. 358, and a similar bill is awaiting action by 2 committees in the House.

“This bill prohibits genetic discrimination in health insurance and the workplace by barring health insurers and employers from requesting or using genetic information to take any action that would affect an employee’s health or employment benefits,” says Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the most senior Republican on the Senate HELP Committee.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, sponsored a similar bill in the last Congress.

Supporters of a genetic testing discrimination ban say a ban would encourage more people to get tests that could help them avoid or cope with disease.

But representatives for health insurers say a poorly worded genetic testing ban could hurt the quality of care.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, “agrees with the intent of the current congressional actions, just as we agreed with the intent of the Senate bill last year,” AHIP spokesman Mohit Ghose says.

But AHIP will “focus our efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure that there are no unintended consequences in the language,” that could hurt the quality of care or interfere with efforts to coordinate treatments, Ghose says.

AHIP also wants to make certain that consumers know genetic information would not be used by health insurers to discriminate or deny coverage, “but would only be used in appropriate ways to improve the quality of health care,” Ghose says.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a headline on an earlier version of this article gave an incorrect description of health insurers’ views on a proposed genetic test ban bill. Insurers are working to change the bill.