P

resident Trump’s top health official suggested that there would be “significant concerns” with a House bill that would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing, but said the administration had not yet examined the issue.

Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services, was asked about the bill on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend.

“I’m not familiar with the bill, but it sounds like there would be some significant concerns about it,” Price said. “If the department’s asked to evaluate it, or if it’s coming through the department, we’ll be glad to take a look at it.”

advertisement

The bill, HR 1313, would also allow employers to see their employees’ genetic information and impose financial penalties on employees who wanted to opt out.

A House committee approved the measure last week on a party-line vote, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. That panel, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the legislation would “provide employers the legal certainty they need to offer employee wellness plans, helping to promote a healthy workforce and lower health care costs.”

The bill’s sponsor was the chairwoman of the committee, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).

“Those who are opposed to the bill are spreading false information in a desperate attempt to deny employees the choice to participate in a voluntary program that can reduce health insurance costs and encourage healthy lifestyle choices,” said a committee spokeswoman, Bethany Aronhalt.

Critics of the bill — which include AARP, various medical and privacy groups, and the American Society of Human Genetics — have warned that the bill would eliminate genetic privacy policies established by the Americans with Disabilities Act and a law known as GINA.

GINA prohibited employers from having the powers HR 1313 would allow, but the bill scoots around GINA by incorporating genetic tests as part of “workplace wellness” programs.

Employer groups have said HR 1313 would align rules about genetic information with laws about workplace wellness programs.

This story was updated with comment from the committee.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • Workplace wellness programs are helpful when they encourage you to manage things that are under your control, which does not include your genetic makeup.

    Under HIPAA de-identified data is allowed to be used, and has value as a resource in the “Big Data” market place.

    Discounts for those who provide the information are the equivalent of charges to those who chose not to comply.

    There has to be some limit; and this is really one place to draw the line in the sand!

  • This is extremely concerning. There is no solid data that that will make an impact on the general health. The genetic testing is in the stage of infancy. Very exciting but in a stage of infancy with unknown implications and interpretations. Not to exploit lay people for monetary gains by Genitic companies and insurance companies. New Lobbyists!

  • Genetic testing is not mandatory. Employees, however, are offered a substantial discount on health insurance premiums for submitting to the genetic testing, which is tied to a wellness program, many of which are operated by vendors not bound by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Rep. Foxx purposely wrote the bill to tie the genetic testing to wellness programs for this reason. Employees short on cash might make a deal with the devil. H.R. 1313 is pure evil, preying on the most vulnerable population. Wealthy persons would never touch this Faustian discount.

  • Dear Congressmen and Senators,

    I am your employer. If you pass this bill, you will be the first ones to be tested under it.

  • I cannot believe that that the government can make laws that take away peoples civil rights and privacy. The President and the Republicans are very “SCARY and GREEDY” people who make me think that the LORD is coming soon. What they are doing to our government is a disgrace to all American’s. We are a GREAT Country, but I fear our leaders in office now will slowly dissolve our greatness.

    • When you write you cannot believe the government can make such laws, I assume you are using hyperbole – it can and it has. Contact your US House Rep. about H.R. 1313 Also, go to issuevoter.org and get involved.

  • This is an absurd and frightening idea! Penalize an employee financially for NOT allowing the gathering of genetic information! Just taking the information is horrendous and more than a little invasive.

Sign up for our biotech newsletter, The Readout

A guide to what’s new in biotech — delivered straight to your inbox every weekday morning.