Hoorah! The House of Representatives also voted for the Genetic Information Non-Discrimiation Act.
The House voted 414-1* for the legislation a week after it passed the Senate on a 95-0 vote. The bill would bar health insurance companies from using genetic information to set premiums or determine enrollment eligibility. Similarly, employers could not use genetic information in hiring, firing or promotion decisions.
…President Bush is expected to sign it into law.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said that for years doctors have been forced to tell women whose families have a history of breast cancer to refuse genetic testing for fear of discrimination.
“They have recommended to them that until a bill such as the one we are passing today becomes law in this country, they should not put at risk their health insurance,” Slaughter said.
The use of genetics to determine insurance and benefit eligibility is not unprecedented.
In the 1970s, several insurers denied coverage to blacks who carried the gene for sickle cell anemia. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California secretly tested workers for sickle cell trait and other genetic disorders from the 1960s through 1993; workers were told it was routine cholesterol screening. (Via Wired/AP)
The examples offered in this article help flesh out why this is a feminist issue. Besides women like me, who have a predisposition to very rare diseases, this law helps protect the very large contingent of women who may be susceptible to breast cancer and other similar health issues, like heart disease, that are common in women and affect us uniquely. This bill will help female patients get treatment for some of the number one killers of women, and, better yet, it will help advance the preventative measures that have be heralded as the next breakthrough in the field of genetic medicine.
Furthermore, as the article mentions, GINA will make it that much harder for insurance companies and employers to discriminate based on race. Besides the example of sickle cell anemia, diabetes is another disease that disproportionately affects blacks, and, until now, insurance companies had been able to raise premiums based on family medical history. This means that if you are black, you are more likely to have a predisposition to diabetes and therefore more likely to have higher insurance premiums.
(For more on how the medical establishment and the government have specifically discriminated against minority and poor communities, please see outcrazyophelia‘s excellent post on experimentation on unwitting, low income black families.)
*Ron Paul was the only legislator out of the entire Senate and House to vote against the bill. I’m not angry–in fact, I lol’d.