Members of the Senate voted 95-0 Thursday for H.R. 493, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
The bill, which would bar employers and health insurers from discriminating based on the results of genetic testing, was supported by major insurance industry groups.
Members of the House approved the bill by a 420-3 vote.
Supporters argued on the Senate floor that the bill could help advance the current understanding of genetic information.
“We are going to make a difference in health care for this country,” said Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo. “Not in sick care, but in health care.”
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said “the need has never been greater” for encouraging Americans to make use of genetic testing to further scientific understanding.
The benefits will not be realized if people fear taking genetic tests “because they fear discrimination by an employer or an insurance provider,” Dodd said.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called H.R. 493 the “first major new civil rights bill of the new century.”
Sen. Thomas Coburn, R-Okla., temporarily blocked debate of the bill on the Senate floor because of concerns that the bill could expose employers to litigation over medical coverage disputes.