NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Genetic Discrimination Isn't Happening

February 13, 2001

Health insurers do not and will not discriminate based upon genetic testing, says Chip Kahn, president of the Health Insurance Association of America.

  • Several studies, including one by Wake Forest University released in September 2000, have found that health insurers do not discrimination against consumers based upon their genetic information.
  • The Wake Forest study surveyed insurance agents, patient advocates and others, none of whom could show evidence of someone being denied coverage due to a genetic test.

The reality is that strong federal and state laws already protect people with health coverage from losing that coverage or having their premiums raised based on their genes.

  • Nationally, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires employers that provide coverage to offer it to all eligible employees, regardless of their health.
  • The same law prohibits singling out people for a rate hike, canceling their coverage based on any health information or treating genetic information as a "pre-existing condition."
  • Furthermore, all states have laws that prohibit insurers from canceling coverage when someone gets sick, and more than half have laws that specifically address genetic discrimination.

On the other hand, proposed federal legislation would spur lawsuits by personal-injury lawyers and lock in standards that could have a chilling effect on new, beneficial medical technologies.

The unintended consequence of many of the bills before Congress would be to overturn basic insurance principles that help keep the cost of coverage affordable.

Source: Chip Kahn (president, Health Insurance Association of America), "Fears are unfounded," USA Today, February 13, 2001.

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