Genetic Privacy and Health Insurance
An abundant amount of working individuals rely on their place of business to provide ample insurance coverages because up until a few years ago, there was a scarce amount of affordable options. But what if said employers had access to a person’s DNA which gave them permission to implement a different wellness-plan? Congress is currently reviewing a bill called the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (PEWPA), which allows companies to monetarily penalize employees upon refusing to provide genetic tests.
A DNA test tells a great deal about a person including; the existence of a medical condition, the likelihood of suffering from future illness, and even the outcome of their children’s health. Until now, it was disallowed for any employer to access, let alone, request genetic test results for employees. Upon this bill becoming a law, employers would possess the power to charge the employee thousands of dollars for failing to undergo testing. The Chicago Tribune calls such actions ones of “bullying,” and disapproves of the discriminatory actions. Similar legislation in Canada is under discussion, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants his government to take extraordinary measures to abolish the potential law. The justice system is likely to get involved, as Science Mag reports, and Trudeau’s government will ask the Canadian Supreme Court to evaluate the constitutional frame of the bill.
Those backing the legislation claim that upon enforcing the law, free promotion will come about encouraging citizens to endure genetic testing. Additionally, supporters feel as though it helps in clarify laws already in existence. The American Conservative stated that advocates of the bill believe employers will not misuse the medical information they possess. Health and life insurers disagree with the bill, knowing it is likely to drive up treatment and insurance costs. Offering an alternative method, those in the industry trust using a voluntary code in policies worth more than a set value (i.e. $180,000). The different approach supported by insurances, lacks enthusiasm from other parties.
From employers perspective, the bill would cause a huge undertaking for Human Resources or any other personnel that handles company insurance information. For large companies with thousands of employees the time, cost, and efforts involved to complete the testing creates ends up creating an extensive burden.
It comes as no surprise that a privacy discussion surrounds these bills. A majority of people have never undergone genetic testing, fearful of knowing what their future holds. If the legislation passes, invasion of privacy is somewhat of an understatement. If an employee cooperates and receives the testing, their employer would have access to their future health.
If the PEWPA bill passes, more than one group of people are bound to see the effects. Though there are many who see the legislation as unconstitutional and a major invasion of privacy, there are plenty who speculate it will allow for a clearer understanding of laws already in existence. Keeping up with the life-cycle and outcome of the bill is crucial for insurers, employees on company benefits, and employers, as they all are key players during the unfolding of this government change.