Congress Near Deal on Genetic Test Bias Bill

Andrew Pollack reports in the New York Times:

Congress reached an agreement clearing the way for a bill to prohibit discrimination by employers and health insurers on the basis of genetic tests.

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who had been almost single-handedly holding up action on the bill, said in an interview Tuesday that most of his concerns had been resolved and predicted that the bill would pass soon.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said a bipartisan agreement had been reached to move the bill to the Senate floor.

[…]

The bill, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, has had broad support in Congress but has never managed to pass both houses in the same session.

It passed the Senate by votes of 95 to 0 in 2003 and 98 to 0 in 2005 but was kept from a vote in the House by Republican leadership. Last year, with Democrats newly in control, the House approved the bill 420 to 3. But this year Senator Coburn had placed a hold on the bill, preventing the Senate from voting on it.

One of Senator Coburn’s main concerns was that the bill might subject employers to civil rights lawsuits stemming from disputes over medical coverage. And employers that also finance their own health insurance, he said, might be sued twice. “We would have created a trial lawyers’ bonanza,” he said.

Senator Coburn, a medical doctor, had called for a “firewall” between the employer and insurance sections of the bill. “We withstood all the criticism we got from lots of people, and now we got it fixed,” he said.

Full story – New York Times

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