25 March 2008
Doctors Outline Policy To Prevent Genetic Discrimination
by Kate Melville
The American College of Physicians (ACP) has released a policy document which they believe should be integral to new laws designed to protect against genetic discrimination in employment and insurance. Six policy positions, appearing below, are the focus of the document.
"While they're not quite there, Congress does continue to move closer to passing federal legislation that protects the use of genetic information in employment and insurance coverage decisions," said David C. Dale, president of the ACP. "This monograph is important for the ongoing discussion."
The first two positions in the paper are aimed squarely at insurance providers and stem from a 2007 study that found that while patients were happy for their doctor to have access to their genetic information; most did not trust health insurers not to misuse their genetic information through disclosure or discriminatory practices.
- Insurance providers should be prohibited from using an individual's genetic information to deny or limit health coverage or establish eligibility, enrollment, or premium contribution requirements.
- Insurance providers should be prohibited from establishing differential premiums based on an individual's genetic information or request for genetic screening.
Employers also get reined in, with position three explicitly denying employers the use of genetic information in hiring and firing.
- Employers should be prohibited from using an individual's genetic information in employment decisions, such as hiring, promoting, or terminating an employee or establishing the terms, conditions, and benefits or employment.
The ACP also looked at a report done by the National Partnership for Women and Families that documents how fears of genetic discrimination negatively impact patient health care and financial well-being, public health, and scientific advancements. Examples include shielding genetic information from health care providers, refusing genetic testing, or undergoing testing using an alias. Two more ACP positions which consider insurers and employers are:
- Insurers and employers should be prohibited from requiring individuals and families to undergo genetic testing.
- Insurers and employers should be prohibited from collecting and/or disclosing an individual or family's genetic information. Written and informed consent should be required for each disclosure of genetic information and should include to whom the disclosure is made.
Finally, the ACP wrapped-in specific Congressional considerations:
- Congress should establish comprehensive and uniform federal protection against genetic discrimination that closes the gaps in protection due to varying state laws.
Source: American College of Physicians