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GINA: An Update II

I’ve written about GINA at least twice before.  GINA, or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, is a piece of legislation that would protect individuals from discrimination based upon their genetic information by employers or insurance companies.

I just learned at the PCD Foundation Blog that a “hold” has been placed upon GINA in the Senate.  The bill flew through the House of Representatives, and President Bush has said that he would sign the bill into law, but it is now stuck in the Senate.  Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., A Republican from Oklahoma, has placed the Hold on the bill.  According to Senator Coburn’s Wikipedia article:

“According to the Boston Globe, Tom Coburn has blocked passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a bill that would prevent health insurers and employers from using genetic information in decisions of employment or insurability. Senator Coburn objected to provisions in the bill that allow discrimination based on genetic information from embryos and fetuses. Recently, the Boston Globe stated that the embryo loophole has been closed, and that Tom Coburn is reevaluating his opposition to the bill.”

The Boston Globe story is here.  There are also press releases (here and here) on Senator Coburn’s website that state his position.  And finally, the most recent information is from The Buffalo News.  You can email (form) Senator Coburn to let him know your opinion.

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

7 Comments

  1. Something seems wrong about this to me, and I think a more subtle approach is called for. The only thing personal genomics will do is give you a better estimate of your risk for disease X. There are other situations where insurance is offered where the risk is fairly well known, and perhaps the models used there would be informative. For example, people who live in coastal areas for which there is historical data on storm risk. If they want coverage for storm damage, they have to buy that separately, but their base homeowners policy remains competitive. If the government were to mandate that homeowners policies for coastal and landlocked properties had to be the same price, the companies would simply raise the premiums for everyone across the board. Some people do pay more for insurance, but when you consider that every place has its own risks and its own required additional coverage, there isn’t that much of a spread in premiums, all told. I’ll bet if insurance companies had access to genetic information, they’ll use a similar model.

    Basic coverage for everyone would be about the same(probably cheaper, actually), and everybody would have some kind of extra coverage they could sign up for for the things they’re most at risk for. Overall premiums should remain about the same, all told, and the cost of health care would probably drop, allowing insurance companies to offer cheaper premiums. In fact, I’d bet they do an end run around any legislation by offering major discounts if you agree to let them do a genetic screening of you as part of your exam.

    Now, people for the most part choose where they live and that’s not an option for insurance, but someone has to pay for healthcare at some point, so it seems to me like you either go single payer national healthcare system, or you let the private insurance companies assign risk as best they can.

    I live in New Orleans, so I’m certainly mistrustful of the insurance companies. What I’m trying to say is that I think the single-payer system is the only way to go.

  2. Hi – I found this when I went looking for why Coburn blocked the bill from passage.

    Frankly, Mr. Gunn’s comments are quite frightening. And no one has ever been able to explain to me, adequately, why we must be so hell-bent on ameliorating insurance company risk. It’s a risky game; we pay premiums, and in the event we need services, they pay out. That’s the deal. If you don’t like the deal, maybe you should be an agent or run an insurance company?

    I think the American people are tired of having to bear the full brunt of everything; it’s another way for the elites (or the ‘haves’) to keep more money from honest, hardworking people. All ready this year, my deductible has been raised; there is a separate new one for specialist visits that must be met and all my co-pays went up. (And yet, so did my premiums!) I’m fairly young, in good health and I barely use insurance. The insurance company is getting quite a bit out of me right now, so pardon me if I get some back in kind when I’m older and in less robust health.

    To continue to parse and pass along more and more to the American public is what forces people to consider things like *shock* *horror* universal healthcare.

    It’s time the insurance companies stopped playing around, figuring ways to avoid responsibility, and just go back to accepting premiums and placing claims.

  3. UneasyWithThis – Thanks for commenting. I hope Mr. Gunn comes back to respond to your comment. As you probably know, GINA is still facing a tough battle in the Senate, and I’m not certain that it will come up for a vote during the current Congress.

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