Nothing says “freedom” like being forced to hand over your genetic code to your employer. That’s exactly what a bill that the GOP is shepherding through Congress would do. Sharon Begley writes:
A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.
Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program.
The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed.
The legislation would completely undermine privacy protections already in place at the federal level through GINA and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. As if that’s not bad enough, Republicans are expected to stealthily roll it into the second phase of the GOP’s health care repeal effort.
Both [privacy] measures, according to congressional testimony last week by the American Benefits Council, “put at risk the availability and effectiveness of workplace wellness programs,” depriving employees of benefits like “improved health and productivity.” The council represents Fortune 500 companies and other large employers that provide employee benefits. It did not immediately respond to questions about how lack of access to genetic information hampers wellness programs.
So Republicans, whose chief slam against Obamacare was that it’s government mandated health care, now want to put corporations in charge of American’s health care choices—in the interest of “wellness,” of course. Too bad wellness programs have largely been proven totally ineffective. But under the ACA, if employees refuse to participate in the programs, employers can charge them anywhere from 30-50 percent more for their health care coverage.
Employers continue to embrace [wellness programs], partly as a way to shift more health care costs to workers, including by penalizing them financially.
Now Republicans want to give those same employers the power to compel you to take a genetic test, because trying to force their employees into wellness programs that don’t work in the interest of their own bottom line wasn’t intrusive enough.