House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 420-3 to pass legislation (HR 493) that would ban discrimination against U.S. residents based on the results of genetic tests, CQ Today reports (Armstrong, CQ Today, 4/25).
Under the bill, employers could not make decisions about whether to hire potential employees or fire or promote employees based on the results of genetic tests. In addition, health insurers could not deny coverage to potential members or charge higher premiums to members because of genetic test results (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 4/17). Agreement was reached on language in the House bill that would include fetuses and embryos in the protections against discrimination, although no new rights would be conferred that would affect the debate over abortion laws ( CQ Today , 4/25). Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the bill's primary sponsor, said she first introduced genetic discrimination legislation 12 years ago. She said, "There's not a single person on the planet who has perfect genes. We're all vulnerable to genetic discrimination." The White House in a statement indicated that President Bush would sign the legislation. "Concern about unwarranted use of genetic information threatens the utilization of existing genetic tests as well as the ability to conduct further research," the statement said ( CongressDaily , 4/26). Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said, "If your grandmother had breast cancer, you shouldn't be denied a job or a promotion" (Abrams, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/25). Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has placed a hold on the Senate version of the legislation (S 358). He said his staff is working on his objections to the bill, but he did not specify what they were ( CQ Today , 4/25).