Legislative Watch: Employer-Mandated Genetic Testing

The repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” continues to take center stage, but there are other legislative actions that merit consideration, not the least of which is a measure that supports employer-mandated genetic testing, H.R. 1313.

Introduction of The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act and Legislative Actions

The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, H.R. 1313, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) on March 2, 2017, was referred to three committees, each tasked with considering the provisions of the measure that fall within the jurisdiction of that committee.

H.R. 1313 was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee the same day it was introduced by Rep. Foxx and bill co-sponsor Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan). Since then, two additional co-sponsors have added their names to the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Michigan) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-New York).

The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved the provisions of H.R. 1313 that fall within that body’s jurisdiction.

Overview of H.R. 1313 Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act

Under current federal law, businesses that offer employee wellness programs cannot impose any types of penalties for employees who decline genetic testing, nor can those employers access the results of such testing. H.R. 1313, although titled to suggest that the measure is designed to preserve employee wellness programs, seeks to eliminate those barriers that now exist by law to prevent employees from having to disclose the results of any genetic testing they’ve had done.

The proposed measure, as currently written, allows an individual’s genetic testing results to be used in connection with considerations of the health of other blood relatives.

The privacy and non-discrimination of employees in the area of genetic testing is currently protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was passed to protect individuals from discrimination by health insurance companies and employers based on their genetic information. Employees are free to share such information to an employer wellness program, but employers cannot mandate it.

Under H.R. 1313, businesses with employee wellness programs could require employees to undergo genetic testing, the results of which would be available to the wellness program and the employer. Under the proposed measure, employers could offer a reduction in health insurance premiums by up to 50 percent, or impose an increase of up to 30 percent of an employer-provided health insurance plan premium.

A number of groups, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society of Human Genetics, the March of Dimes and AARP, are standing in opposition to the passage of H.R. 1313.

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