Members of the House Ways and Means Committee today voted unanimously to approve H.R. 493, a bill that would ban discrimination based on genetic testing.

The bill, which would create the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act of 2007, was introduced in January by Reps. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Judy Biggert, R-Ill.

Supporters say the bill would prevent health insurers and care providers from using genetic information or related information to discriminate against patients.

The Ways and Means Committee is just 1 of 3 committees with jurisdiction over the bill.

The House Education and Labor Committee approved the bill earlier this month.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to act on the bill in the near future.

“This legislation is an overdue and important step toward ensuring that our laws governing patient rights are as current as the latest medical technology,” Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, says in a statement about the bill. “It is important for patients to learn more about their genetic history and how it may determine their health, but they should not be afraid that this information will result in a loss of health insurance coverage.”

The Ways and Means Committee made some changes to the bill, including some relating to Medicare supplement insurance purchases, the committee says.

Ways and Means also added a provision directing the secretary of Health and Human Services to adjust federal privacy laws to conform with the legislation.

A quick comparison of the Medigap sections in the original version of the bill and the amended version that was approved by the Ways and Means Committee suggests that the sections are similar.

Health insurance groups have taken a cautious approach to H.R. 493 and similar bills, supporting the thinking behind the bills but trying to keep the bills from inhibiting the ability of health care providers to manage care based on genetic testing results.

Links to information about the bill are on the Web ‘>Document Link

A copy of the amended version passed by the Ways and Means Committee is