A Lawmaker Wants to Let Your Boss Do Genetic Tests on You

Does your boss deserve to know in advance what kind of diseases you are likely to develop later in life? That may seem like a privacy concern for an Orwellian future, but actually this is an issue that the U.S. House of Representatives is considering currently.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican congresswoman representing the state of North Carolina, is sponsoring H.R. 1313, a bill better known as Preserving Employer Wellness Programs. If passed, the legislation would permit companies to request their employees submit to genetic testing to better assess their present and future health risks.

Sign the petition: We don’t want Americans to have genetic tests for their employers.

While employees would have the right to decline genetic testing (who wants to say no to his or her boss, though?), here’s the rub: Employers could then legally charge workers who declined testing higher insurance premiums for not participating. Essentially, workers could be fined for be unwilling to hand over sensitive and personal information.

It might go without saying, but it is businesses that are backing this legislation. Major corporate advocates like the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are drumming up support so that companies will have access to genetic information.

In the short term, companies stand to get more money out of their employees to help cover insurance costs by making them sacrifice privacy in order to have affordable premiums. Some will refuse to comply with genetic testing out of principle and pay the price for maintaining their privacy.

However, the real ways in which this legislation could be abused are yet to come. Scientists are actively learning just how much our genes can tell us, and they’re confident that in the future we’ll know all sorts of things about our health that we couldn’t even imagine knowing now.

A lot of people don’t even want to know in their younger years if they’re likely to have cancer or Alzheimer’s down the road as it could have a major impact on how they lead their lives today. Having their employers know this information first is unsettling.

At the moment, there are federal laws that prevent companies from obtaining genetic information in order to make hiring – or firing – decisions. In 2008, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) to prevent genetic discrimination.

However, GINA allows employees to hand over genetic information voluntarily, thus providing the wiggle room necessary for this bill. Given all that genes can reveal about a person, there’s no guarantee that employers won’t secretly look at that information anyway – especially if it’s already at their disposal.

“There are possibilities for misusing genetic information that make it very important for this information to be private,” said Nancy Cox, American Society of Human Genetics president.

Rep. Foxx has excused her legislation as a natural progression from the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats backed. While one’s excuse for advancing bad legislation should never be, “The other party did it first!” the Democrats do deserve a share of the heat for this issue.

You see, the ACA has allowed companies to charge employees lower insurance premiums when they participate in certain wellness programs. On the flipside, others companies can charge people more for smoking. By allowing businesses to set insurance rates partially based on perceived health risks, the ACA is laying the groundwork for health factors to be considered into health care costs.

That doesn’t mean the Democrats support the Preserving Employer Wellness Programs bill, though. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has already approved the legislation, but the Democrats could have more sway in blocking the bill in the Senate, which hasn’t considered it yet.

It’s not too late to get Foxx to pull her own support, however. Let’s get rid of this bill before the full Congress even gets a vote. Tell Rep. Foxx to reconsider her sponsorship of this legislation by signing this petition.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

63 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W11 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

This is a matter of time, big corporations taking over our genetics info.... Petition signed and shared

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Mary B
Mary Babout a year ago

Just because something shows up in the genetics of your family doesn't mean it's inevitable for you. This is just one more way to turn information into propaganda for the insurance/pharmaceutical/ medical care complex. Thoughts repeated turn into beliefs turn into actions turn into lived realities. Truth is relative to the belief. Useing leeches used to be a valid medical practice. Don't you wonder what thoughts predated that? Probably came from vampires which is no doubt where the republican mind set take from. [smile]

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Mina X
Past Member about a year ago

Sounds like a bill that won't get much ground. Most people won't comply - well, most who have a backbone, which will screw it all up for the idiots. Welcome to animal farm boys & girls...

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Jennifer H
Jennifer Habout a year ago

No surprise that it's repugnican.

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Margaret B
Margaret Babout a year ago

Talk about cynical control freaks!!
Bosses should be tested first to see if they are in good nick, or might drop dead and leave the company in a mess.
Petition signed.

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