- A U.S. House committee approved a bill that would penalize employees who refused genetic testing, the Washington Post reports. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the bill, which lets employers get around the laws that protect workers’ genetic privacy and prohibit genetic discrimination.
- If passed, the bill enables employers to collect genetic and other health information through wellness programs, says the Post. Other House committees are reviewing the bill. Employers would be allowed to impose premium penalties on employees that opt not to participate.
- But 70 groups, including AARP, House Democrats, March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Women’s Law Center, sent the House committee a letter expressing their opposition to the bill.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has clarified wellness program rules before. Before then, employers had to contend with conflicting provisions between the Affordable Care Act, which focused on providing employees with incentives for participating in wellness programs, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which also allows incentives, but focuses on legal protections.
The House bill would give employers more latitude in running wellness programs by requiring employees to undergo genetic testing and penalizing those who won’t. Opponents believe this would leave wellness program participants vulnerable to privacy invasion and discrimination based on their genetic information.
Both the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) state that health information from wellness programs can be disclosed to employers only in aggregate terms. Both laws also require employers to explain to wellness program participants what health information is being collected, who will see it and for what purpose. But wellness programs could become a loophole in these laws, especially if the ACA as it stands is destabilized or repealed.