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Bill To Outlaw Genetic Discrimination In US 353

Posted by kdawson
from the hands-off-my-genes dept.
fatduck sends us a brief note from New Scientist about the overwhelming passage in the US House of Representatives of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. As written, the bill would prohibit insurance companies from charging higher rates, and employers from discriminating in hiring, based on the results of genetic tests. A Boston Globe editorial notes that the bill has been held up in the Senate by the action of a single senator, who has an (outdated) objection based on his anti-abortion stance. President Bush has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
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Bill To Outlaw Genetic Discrimination In US

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  • by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:57PM (#19012503)
    Now if they would only do something about flying car fuel efficiency standards.
  • Damnit (Score:2, Funny)

    by amplusquem (995096)
    I have the legendary cytosine-guanine combo going for me.
  • by genrader (563784) <genrader@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:02PM (#19012537) Homepage Journal
    I fail to see why this is even an issue?

    If Insurance Company X wants to discriminate that's fine and dandy. Big deal. Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace and find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices, but what really is wrong here? It's like saying an insurance company can't charge people different rates based on sex.

    It's just silly and another anti-discrimination agenda that makes people across both party lines and ideologies "feel good" about themselves when really, they're just making the economy less efficient.
    • by Falesh (1000255) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:05PM (#19012565) Homepage
      So that poor 5% of the population who have been born with some nasty genetic baggage can not only look forward to a worse life then the rest but also have to pay through the nose too? Not my kinda society thank you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)
        There is little reason to require private companies to offer universal coverage as they have enormous incentives to cheat(because if they can avoid expensive patients better, they make more money). If you want universal coverage for hard luck diseases, it might as well be rolled into medicare(or some updated replacement with a better regulatory model).

        As someone who is relatively healthy, I'd really rather not call paying for people with genetic conditions 'insurance', as it isn't. I'm fine with society at
        • by breagerey (758928) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:24PM (#19012705)
          As someone who is relatively healthy, I'd really rather not call paying for people with genetic conditions 'insurance', as it isn't.

          The important bit, to me anyways, isn't discrimination against somebody who *has a inherited illnesss... it's discrimination based on a genetic predisposition.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NFNNMIDATA (449069)
          You already are paying for people who can't/don't pay, however. Part of the reason medical care costs so much is all the people who can't/don't pay anything at all. Hospitals and clinics have to write huge amounts off all the time, either due to indigent patients or insurance companies that pay whatever amount they feel like paying. Basically with insurance in the mix what we have at this point is a failed version socialized medicine - we all still pay for each other, just everyone who pays, pays even mo
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by maxume (22995)
            Tort reform would go a long way towards lowering prices. Practicing doctors need huge malpractice policies to protect themselves from juries that do not want to face the relationship between awarding a patient with an out sized amount for pain and suffering and higher costs at the doctor's office. And I'm not arguing against compensation for poor care, just that current decisions are out of line with reason.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by StikyPad (445176)
              I think that rather than fixed limits, the recipient of any procedure which negligently caused significant debilitation where the condition itself would not have, should be entitled to the projected remainder of their living expenses, plus change. That is, the balance of their mortgage (or projected rent), car loan, health insurance, projected utility bills, food, gas, and maybe up to $50k extra. That would be well under a million dollars for most people; probably well under $500k. Do people *deserve mor
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by einhverfr (238914)
          So, you don't mind paying higher taxes to cover genetically forecastable diseases (such as some forms of cancer or even some forms of alcoholism) but you do mind paying more for insurance?

          However, imagine other cases:

          Imagine being fired because you carry a gene that is linked to an increased likelihood of problematic behavior (certain genes associated with certain forms of alcoholism, for example, or maybe genes associated with aggressive tendencies). We already ban discrimination based on other genetic fa
        • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:34PM (#19013935)
          As someone who is relatively healthy, I'd really rather not call paying for people with genetic conditions 'insurance', as it isn't.

          You are a fool. You have no idea how your gene expression will change as you get older, and until you've been genotyped you have no idea what chronic diseases are in store for you.

          I'm fine with society at large stepping in and covering/mitigating their medical problems(because we are wealthy beyond imagination), but the idea that they can buy insurance against a condition after it is known is simply wrong. It's cost sharing with no risk component at all.

          In other words, we should use our insurance system to incentivize people to have fewer genetic defects!

          We can start by allowing insurance companies to surcharge black people for sickle-cell anemia. It isn't fair that white people should have to pay for a disease they don't even get. It's cost sharing with no risk component at all.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by maxume (22995)
            Actually, I'm pretty likely to have hypertension, heart disease and colon cancer. See, my parents did. So what I am doing is taking steps to aggressively control my weight and cardiovascular conditioning, as these are among the best ways to mitigate those predispositions. On top of that, they are good insurance risks for the next 20 years or so.

            And I don't know why you are attacking me like I am supporting eugenics; all I am saying is that the *label* insurance doesn't apply to something if there is no risk
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by avxo (861854)
        So, your kind of society is one where a private insurance company must insure everyone who walks in the office, against their own judgment, because to do otherwise is discrimination? An insurance company is a business, like any other. And businesses that operate in the real world -- not in a world of gingerbread houses and lollipop lanes -- are out to make money, and they do so by making sound business decisions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Waffle Iron (339739)

          So, your kind of society is one where a private insurance company must insure everyone who walks in the office, against their own judgment, because to do otherwise is discrimination?

          That's pretty much irrelevant. Since the medical costs for any individual are highly predictable, most health coverage is not "insurance" at all. Individual plans for a few healthy human specimens are insurance, but most people aren't healthy enough (or have a family member who is not healthy enough) to get individual health i

      • by shaitand (626655)
        You can have your lovey dovey society for now. It wouldn't exist without natural selection. Those 5% aren't meant to succeed in life and if all goes well won't exist within a few generations. Failing in life means that they won't find a mate or will have to settle for an inferior mate.

        We aren't talking about discrimination based upon irrelevant genetics. This is like stopping an insurance company from accepting someone with a pre-existing condition that has been diagnosed with an objective test.

        Insurance co
        • by Rakishi (759894)
          As it stands now society is favoring, genetically, those who are poor, superstitious and don't plan ahead. I would guess that there is some genetic component to these, likely indirectly by other less than socially desirable inclinations. The rich you see, who by our social standards are the unsuccessful ones thus by your logic have better genes, do not reproduce as much.
          • +1

            The present situation is disturbingly similar to the class sci-fi short story "The Marching Morons", or from pop-culture, the film "Idiocracy". Smart people just aren't breeding as much as dumb people, because they're too busy holding society together.

            I call on all intelligent people to drop out of the career game and raise ridiculously large families to offset the rampant reproduction rate of morons. Or at least go knock up some moron's wife.
            • by Rakishi (759894)
              Well the problem if you call it that is that intelligent people think rationally and long terms. It makes little sense in our society to have many kids as we cannot provide the best for each of them (education, time, etc, etc.) as to give them the best chance at success. Furthermore children provide no direct benefit to parents till they're in their late 20s at the earliest but have a substantial cost. The potential benefit (helping the parents when they grow old) is also highest the fewer children you have
    • by Stiletto (12066) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:10PM (#19012607)
      Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace and find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices

      That's a BIG "probably". Talk to someone who is unable to get any kind of private medical insurance at all from any company at any price, due to some red flag in their medical history.

      In the U.S.A. being un-insurable is pretty much a sentence to eventual bankruptcy should an illness strike.
    • by evanbd (210358) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:25PM (#19012723)

      This is exactly the case for nationalized health care. Insurance companies are about mitigating risk. Once you've tested positive (at least for some conditions), you're no longer a risk. A rational insurance company would then set your rates at the cost of treatment.

      However, as a society, we expect to have a certain incidence of these genetic disorders. It's unfair to expect the individual to pay for it -- they did nothing wrong, they shouldn't be punished. We as a society either need to decide that we don't care to help these people, tough luck for them, or we need to decide that we look out for our own and pay for the health care for these sorts of disorders.

      Alternatively, we could come up with some plan that said that whoever your insurance company is when you have the test, they're on the hook for all future related bills -- but that's really just the same thing as society paying for it, we've just migrated the cost from a tax into insurance premiums, and it seems to me that hiding it that way is a bad thing.

      • by ScentCone (795499)
        but that's really just the same thing as society paying for it, we've just migrated the cost from a tax into insurance premiums

        But it's not really the same as sociey paying for it... it's the same as (well, it IS) the other people in that insured group paying for it. It could be just the 100 other people in that person's company, who are co-insured, paying for it. Some disease might cost $1 million to treat while that person yet lives... and 100 people get to pay for it in your scenario. And, of course,
        • by evanbd (210358)
          Not quite... if the company they were insured under at the time of the test is on the hook for all related costs, then it doesn't matter if they hike the rates after -- you can just switch companies, and the new one will have lower rates since they don't have to handle the test-related costs. Therefore it doesn't really make sense for the original company to hike the rates after the test, since they'll just drive away the customer without getting rid of the expense. That means they have to raise the rate
    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:26PM (#19012739)

      I fail to see why this is even an issue?

      Even if the insurance part of the bill is of no interest to you, there is an employment discrimination component as well.

      • How can you determine who to hire without some form of discrmination?

        Even if it's based on who is most intelligent, if we find that intelligence is a gene or set of genes, this law would not stop a determined employer from simply asking all potential employees for the genetic test results of SPECIFIC tests for SPECIFIC genes.

        In the case of healthcare the situation is much more clear and makes more sense, but in hiring it's going to cause a LOT of lawsuits, confusions, and may end up in the supreme court.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:29PM (#19012761)
      Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace and find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices,



      You need to be hit with the clue stick about how the insurance industry works.


      Try finding health insurance without answering questions on preexisting conditions. Good luck, you'll need it.

      If you have certain conditions, the insurance companies (all of them) don't want you. You're undesirable.

    • by slughead (592713)
      It's just silly and another anti-discrimination agenda that makes people across both party lines and ideologies "feel good" about themselves when really, they're just making the economy less efficient.

      I think this law also "discriminates" against those of us with good genes by making us pay higher insurance premiums than we deserve. We can't change the genes we were born with! Why make us suffer?!

      The problem is: Insurance companies should be able to discriminate based on anything you're comfortable with the
      • Okay. Suppose someone has a genetic condition that ups the odds of something bad happening. He knows about it, but--since his lifestyle isn't quite as good as yours--he'd rather the insurance company not know. He's afraid that if they know, he won't be able to afford insurance.
        If something bad happens involving that genetic condition, the insurance company will treat him worse than if he had told them. They could sue him for not telling.
        Insurance companies require their customers to list pre-existing
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The problem is: Insurance companies should be able to discriminate based on anything you're comfortable with them knowing.

        Why? The whole point of insurance is to spread risk over a large population. With perfect information, all the healthy people would go to the cheap carrier and everybody else would pay through the nose because they lost the genetic lottery. That's no way to run a society.

        • Of course, the only way to completely fairly (by which I mean evenly, some definitions of fair may vary) is to have everyone use the same health insurance company, and force it to insure everyone. Oh look, you've just invented socialised health care.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            You say that like it's a bad thing.

            Until people stop whining like idiots every time someone brings up universal health care, we'll never have an honest discussion about its merits. You don't think people with no insurance just die in a gutter, do you? No, they wait until their problems are life threatening, and then go to a hospital. It's expensive, and they never pay, so we really already have UHC for anyone willing to go that route. Do ya think maybe it might be cheaper just to treat these people proacti

        • by elucido (870205)

          Maybe it's no way to run a society, but thats how society already is.

          I don't think this bill will change that, because people were never genetically equal, but the question is how does this bill make society better?

      • I think this law also "discriminates" against those of us with good genes by making us pay higher insurance premiums than we deserve.

        It discriminates by making you pay the same rate as others? Because by having good genes, you deserve lower rates than others?

        We can't change the genes we were born with! Why make us suffer?!

        In your attempt to turn the argument around, you demonstrate how weak your position is. If you could change the genes you were born with from good genes to bad genes, it wouldn't help you one bit. Do you understand this? People with bad genes are not being given an advantage. Do you understand this?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by whiteknight31 (744465)
      Part of the problem is that just because you have a particular gene that can lead to an increase risk of a certain disease doesn't mean that you will eventually fall victim to that disease.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nomadic (141991) *
      It's just silly and another anti-discrimination agenda that makes people across both party lines and ideologies "feel good" about themselves when really, they're just making the economy less efficient.

      So? "Economic efficiency" isn't the highest good in the world. And they're not "just" making the economy less efficient, they're potentially giving people access to lifesaving treatment that they might otherwise not be able to afford. If we save a few lives at the expense of a little efficiency, I'm all
      • "Economic efficiency" isn't the highest good in the world. And they're not "just" making the economy less efficient, they're potentially giving people access to lifesaving treatment that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

        Keep in mind that this is the same government who just put Brazil on a "watchlist for piracy" for taking that same stand.http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/0 5 /05/1633207 [slashdot.org]
    • unless you have some way becoming male or female without genes?

      let's be consistent here - if you can't discriminate based on sex or race (both passed by genetic information) why discriminate based on some other genes?

      It's like saying "we'll cover you for stuff on chromosome 11, but not chromosome 12"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Score Whore (32328)
        You do know that men and women receive different insurance rates and benefits, right?
    • by polar red (215081)
      yep some people are genetically better than others and we will allow them to have insurance. Let's call these people "ubermenschen" [/cynical]
    • by Qzukk (229616)
      Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace

      And if they don't, what then? Making the claim that someone will do X in a system that demands rational choices requries that you lay out why doing X is rational, in which case you then have to explain why everyone else is not doing X despite the fact that it is apparently rational.

      Personally, I'm suprised the anti-abortionist senator had any complaints with this, after all, what does he think people are going to do if it becomes cheape
      • Senator Coburn's complaint was that the original bill had a loophole, and still allowed genetic discrimination against unborn babies/fetuses.
    • by cgenman (325138)
      I don't know if this has been properly set to words before, but the form of capitalism that this country promotes appears to be one of self-actualization... which is to say, that everyone has a chance at becoming top dog if they get up off their ass and work really hard. The truth of that statement is highly debatable, but you'll notice that the core mantra is that success and failure comes through individual effort and ability.

      Genetic, racial, or sexual discrimination goes very much against that mantra.
    • by AC5398 (651967)
      Go watch Gattica if you'd like to know why this is an issue. Just because a genetic profile says that someone is disposed to getting cancer or have a temper, etc doesn't make it true, nor should we discriminate against those seen as 'not perfect'.

      Have a genetic predisposition to, oh, heart disease, and you may find it impossible to get health insurance. Gattica took it one step further and showed a civilization divided between haves and have-nots based solely on a person's genetic profile and not their ab
    • by Ant P. (974313)

      It's like saying an insurance company can't charge people different rates based on sex.

      Not just *like*, it *is* saying that.
  • by eldurbarn (111734) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:04PM (#19012555)
    It's illegal to fire someone for trying to start a union at his place of work, but I got fired, anyway. They claimed I had quit.

    Suddenly the burden of proof falls to the injured party and all the "big bad company" has to do is have some form of plausible denyability.

    Big words, high ideals, changes nothing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by John Jorsett (171560)
      It's illegal to fire someone for trying to start a union at his place of work, but I got fired, anyway. They claimed I had quit.

      Couldn't you have made it obvious by screaming and clutching at the drapes as the security guards dragged you out?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by packeteer (566398)
      It it illegal to be fired for making a safety claim with your state Labor and Industries department but I was fired anyway. The boss claimed it was job performance despite having never been written up and my piece per hour rate was higher than any other employee.

      This is why Labor Day is my favorite holiday. We celebrate easter and Christmas for a guy that is arguable if he even existed let alone died for you. Yet on labor day it is documented on the record that many workers died for the rights we have to
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      My wife filed a sexual harassment complaint. She didn't want to, but was told that the only way that her boss would be told to stop bitching at her for getting pregnant was to file a formal complaint. When she did, they fired her. They even put the reason in writing of "hostile towards company". She was told by the state (CA) that it didn't prove anything, and by two lawyers that while what happened was illegal, it would cost her more to sue than they could get. So, basically, too bad.
  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:06PM (#19012569) Homepage
    (1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')
    (2) What makes his objection "outdated"? (For that matter, what *is* the objection?)
    (3) What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?

    At least the main thrust of the article is expounded, but, geez, does this guy run around in a mask and a cape and do all his legislating at night, or why exactly did the submitter feel the need to leave his person and actions cloaked in mystery?
    • (1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')

      (2) What makes his objection "outdated"? (For that matter, what *is* the objection?)

      (3) What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?

      I'll tell you the answer to one of these if you RTFA for the other two:

      The answer to (3), 'What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?' is: A "hold." Beautiful, huh?

    • by OakLEE (91103)

      (1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')
      (3) What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?

      In the US Senate, any member is allowed to place a secret hold [wikipedia.org] on legislation to prevent it from coming up for a vote. Standing Rules of the Senate RULE VII [senate.gov]. Notably, there was a news story [cnn.com] last year where Sen. Ted Stevens put a secret hold on a bill that would have required the government to publish online a database of federal spending.

    • Legislative Holds (Score:5, Informative)

      by pavon (30274) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:42PM (#19012875)
      I was not familiar with the practice of legislative holds, so I googled it and found this description [senate.gov] by the same senator that is holding up this bill, Tom Coburn. I thought others might find it interesting as well.
    • by interiot (50685)
      Coburn put the bill on hold because it contains an exception allowing discrimination based on genetic information from embryos and fetuses, but apparently there's an amendment that is hoped make the bill acceptable to Coburn. [1] [boston.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gillbates (106458)
      Apparently, the Senator is Tom Coburn, who apparently objected on the grounds that a loophole would allow genetic information obtained from fetuses. That is, genetic discrimination would still be legal if the source of the information was acquired from prenatal lab tests.
  • by rantingkitten (938138) <(kitten) (at) (mirrorshades.org)> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:06PM (#19012573) Homepage
    After I already paid the guy to become a borrowed ladder and spent four weeks in leg braces to get taller. Thanks for nothing!
  • ... since there isn't enough in my current medical history to be used against me by insurance companies. Now I feel perfectly safe and secure since everyone knows every company adheres to each and every law no matter how specific.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:07PM (#19012587) Homepage
    While I agree with the spirit of the bill, they need to do something better. Genetic information should be restricted medical information only. More than the fact that employers and insurers should not be allowed to discriminate based on the information, they shouldn't be allowed to have or see that information at all. Preventing them from making decisions based on the information is an area frought with grey areas that it runs the risk of being highly ineffective because in spite of the fact that there are many criteria by which insurers are prohibited to descriminate, they manage to skirt the matter by descriminating based on "similar" and statistically related information... you know, like zip codes instead of ethnicity?

    The only way to truly prevent the problem from occuring is to make it illegal for them to house the information entirely. There's no grey area there. They either have it or not. Their databases either contains provisions for it or not. If they have it, you shouldn't even have to ask why. They should be fined, reprimanded and shut down until the information is proven to be purged from their databases and database record formats.

    If someone suggests "but it's about identity!" I'd have to remind them that the SSN is already being illegally abused for that purpose... it's more than enough.
    • blanketly outlawing discrimination based on ones genes seems such a no-brainer to me - it encompasses discrimination by race, sex, height, beauty, dumbness, maybe even sexual-orientation - forget all those other laws let's just call it what it is - if you're different because your genes are different you should be treated equally with everyone else
      • by elucido (870205)
        So the bill needs to be a lot stronger. That I can agree with, the words are the problem and as I've read it I can see a lot of potential lawsuits.

        So if it passes in it's current weak form it's going straight to the supreme court where it will likely be nullified.

        It might better to change the hiring practice altogether and let computers and software rate potential employees on a point system.

        I think if any human is involved in hiring they will be biased genetically, so genetic discrimination will always tak
    • by G27 Radio (78394)
      I think you're absolutely correct.

      Think about this: Two or more people qualify for the same job. Who is going to get the job? Will it be the guy that they deem will be healthiest or the one of the others. Sure they may not be allowed to discriminate based on that, but I have a feeling that the healthiest candidate will be chosen as the best qualified for the job. Nothing illegal about hiring the most qualified candidate.

      Maybe you'll already have a job, but your company needs to lay some people off. Who
  • Hmm. (Score:2, Informative)

    I'm in favor of this law, don't get me wrong, but I thought we'd been practicing "genetic discrimination" since life began.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      We do socially, anyway. First it was the divine right of monarchy, now its the high test scores of the modern day plutocracy. High test scores, or whatever the case may be, is (wrongly) attributed to inherent aptitude, aka. genetics. Those individuals lucky enough to have been deemed genetically superior are then given the best opportunities in life. Will the passing of this law do anything about this? No. I personally doubt this law will do much of anything at all. Just because its de jure does not
  • If I remember correctly there is already a law banning such discrimination based on genetics- signed during Clinton's administration.
  • some thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gargletheape (894880) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:19PM (#19012665)

    1. We already allow insurance companies to perform complex calculations using family histories, lifestyle choices, income, living conditions etc. A whole industry is dedicated to the task of deciding as accurately as possible just who is likely to live long. I can already deduce with superb accuracy how long someone is likely to live. Conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension can all be predicted rather well already. Genetics essentially is the icing on the cake, adding rare genetic conditions to the list of scannable factors. This is an incremental change, at best. Indeed, even with perfect genetic info, chance, will continue to play a major role. Hell, anyone can be hit by a car.

    2. Perfect information about someone's future health might compromise the insurance system, but this is an institutional problem, not a moral one. (A weak analogy, I think, is webmaster vs. adblock. ) That two people, having vastly differing health prospects (one has undiagnosed Huntingtons, say) should pay similar premiums, is hardly an ethical judgment. It simply is how the industry operates now. Perhaps other ways exist? Life has existed before insurance, believe it or not. If indeed the function insurance fulfills is crucial under all situations, new ways of organizing it will emerge. We shouldn't seek to ossify technology just to protect status quo or a business model.

    • All correct. But someone with a rare genetic disorder that makes lengthy and expensive treatments necessary would have a really hard time finding an insurance they can afford. Now, chronically ill people also don't tend to be the richest, quite the opposite.

      So what are the alternatives? I see two. Banning genetic testing, so the insurance takes the risk to get one of those money drains (pardon for being so blunt and cruel, but that's what those people are to an insurance), or allowing them and killing peopl
    • 2. Perfect information about someone's future health might compromise the insurance system, but this is an institutional problem, not a moral one.

      Indeed. In the short story "Life-Line" by Robert A. Heinlein, a man creates a device that can accurately predict when a person will die. For his troubles, he gets murdered by insurance companies and his invention destroyed.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:23PM (#19012683)
    Once the genome is completely mapped, and every congenital defect is detectable, the life insurance industry will change completely. Even if they're not allowed to check, or base their rates on the results, you can bet insurance companies will take a quick look at what they can expect over the life of the policyholder. If I have a heart condition or a neurological defect that's going to kill me sometime between 55-70, that can really give the actuaries something to chew on. While not 100% certain of when I'll die, they know when I'm most likely to die, and the rest is all accident insurance.

    A lot of auto insurance customers are up in arms about the "insurance score" that most US auto insurers use to determine part of your premiums. For those who don't know, the insurer runs a credit report to see how responsible you are with your finances. I guess the idea is that someone who doesn't pay their bills on time is most likely to commit fraud or be absent-minded and get into more accidents. Basing part of your life insurance premiums on a known portion of your long-term health history seems fairer to me than this.

    I hope we do wind up with most of the genetic puzzle solved sometime in my life. We could wipe out most inherited conditions in 2 or 3 generations. A lot of people think it's too much like engineering a society, but I think it would be a great service to the species. There should be some limits, but who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)
    • Personally I see a big difference between a car and a life insurance. You don't have to have a car. But you kinda have to have a life.

      Unless you don't want to live.
    • by Assassin bug (835070) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @04:12PM (#19013129) Journal

      There should be some limits, but who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)


      My sister is mentally retarded. Whereas I agree with your statement in part (i.e., ridding her of her condition would be a wonderous thing for her), I strongly disagree that she is a burden on society. Rather, society places a much, much larger burden on her because of her condition. She is gainfully employed and pays taxes, what more would society want from anyone? I don't think that "retards", as you so kindly refer to people like my sister, are as great a burden as those who seek to committ homicide. Maybe there might be a genetic condition associated with such behaviors. Anyway, the bigger problem is who becomes the genetic "gold standard" and who makes the descision. Should that be left up to companies that house their employees in creepy sterile office buildings [thinkquest.org]?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rakishi (759894)

      If I have a heart condition or a neurological defect that's going to kill me sometime between 55-70, that can really give the actuaries something to chew on. While not 100% certain of when I'll die, they know when I'm most likely to die, and the rest is all accident insurance.

      Many genetic factors simply alter the odds, very few will defiantly cause something at age X (oddly enough even those at risk for these do not always want to be tested even when tests exist). Your enviroment (current and past, including when you were still a fetus) matters a great deal. It may be that you have a genetic risk for ulcers but require exposure to an environmental factor (say a virus) for it to happen.

      There should be some limits, but who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)

      By the standards of someone who has say a 350 IQ we're all retards, there is no line to draw

    • We could wipe out most inherited conditions in 2 or 3 generations. A lot of people think it's too much like engineering a society, but I think it would be a great service to the species.

      It will be the death knell of mankind. Seriously.

      Humanity is still subject to that powerful force called evolution. There are those who say that genetic selection will help us control our own evolution. No it won't. Evolution is based on natural selection of random mutations. If you start pruning off things you don't like; s

      • If you start pruning off things you don't like ... red hair genes
        I will personally shoot anyone who tries to take redheads away from us.
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:31PM (#19012775)
    don't you run the risk of people getting a prognosis for some horrific and debilitating disease and suddenly wanting the gold-plated health and disability plan, which the law would say has to be issued? Like going out and buying fire insurance for your burning house?
    • Insurance companies have done well over the past century. Look at the largest buildings in any city in America, if it isn't a bank, it's an insurance company. Here is how it works:

      1) Convince people they need insurance to cover the cost X of Service S.
      2) Insured people can now afford to pay more so provider charges X+Y for service S.
      3) Rising cost of (X+Y) means people can no longer afford service S so they must buy more insurance.
      4) ??? Profit
      5) goto step 1

      Insurance companies don't need the ??? step and
  • This is ridiculous (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:33PM (#19012787) Homepage Journal
    I have people in my family, people that depend upon me, that have conditions such as autism, aspergers, with strong genetic components, and even Huntington's, that is as close to being genetically determined as you can get -- and I oppose such "anti-discrimination" measures for a very good reason:

    If we aren't allowed to "discriminate" on the basis of criteria we see fit, we are being denied the use of our most precious human asset: our neurons.

    However, since the government insists on interfering in family matters by prohibiting euthanasia within the family setting -- the government thereby must pay the full costs of humane care for people thereby kept alive.

    PS: I do not by the way consider it unethical to encourage my relatives to avail themselves of every benefit available to them under the law. I consider it unethical merely to fail to speak out against such laws given the benefits accruing to me indirectly via them. The same standards of behavior should hold for anyone who benefits from any form of "anti-discrimination" law.

  • Gattaca (Score:2, Informative)

    by DarkLegacy (1027316)
    I had a horrible chill about Gattaca as soon as I read the title. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119177/ [imdb.com]
  • That right there killed any chance of it getting through Congress, so discussing the bill's effectiveness might be pointless. Also, there are claims that scientists have found a gene for alcoholism. What else might our genes do to us that insurance companies might want to know about? If, for example, there is a gene that makes you prone to highway hypnosis. That sends you likelihood of you being in a accident up and, if this bill is not passed, probably your insurance rates. Of course, you are still mo
  • And when I get up before my Congregation [churchoftherahowa.com] and advocate the genetic improvement of the human race, I could be hauled off and jailed for thought crime just because I don't want my grandchildren to have six fingers and a nictating membrane!

    This is a clear violation of my religious freedom, as well as my freedom of conscience.

    (In case my ham-fisted irony is somehow lost on you: http://www.bloggernews.net/16539 [bloggernews.net])
  • non-humans? (Score:3, Funny)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:45PM (#19012901) Homepage
    Wouldn't this mean you couldn't refuse to hire my dog if he filled out an application? I think rover might finally pull his own weight.
  • There are genetic tests under development (and a few already available, like Huntington's) that will allow much earlier detection of some diseases. In many cases, this will allow earlier treatment, extending lives and probably reducing overall medical expenses. However, no one is going to be willing to take the tests if they're going to become uninsurable because of it.

    This isn't so much about discrimination or allowing actuaries to do a good job as it is about letting new tests become useful at all. After all, the insurance company has no more useful information if you don't take the test than if they're not allowed to use the results.
  • So, I was tested, and I have a Y chromosome. You'd better give me cheaper car insurance at the XX rate, or I sue.
  • If you have some kind of condition that makes you probable to cardiac arrest under high stress conditions or low-g environments (astronauts?) and there is genetic screen process available for this shouldn't these institutions be allowed to test candidates for these? After all, they do eliminate people based on physical fitness, eyesight etc. which are all heavily influenced by genetics.
  • Reading the words, it says they cannot discriminate against a healthy person.

    While that makes sense, the more heinous discriminate is doing so against a person once they are sick.

    So once they ARE sick and HAVE a bad gene, then they can really ratchet up the premiums.

    Since no one mentioned this, I expect that will be possible under this bill. (If this WAS included in the bill, THIS would be the true strength of the legislation)

    The fact that so many representatives voted for it and the power of the insurance
  • But..... Dey Terk ERRR JERRRBSSS!
  • Here we go... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by baudbarf (451398) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:13PM (#19014867) Homepage
    "Of course, it's illegal to discriminate, "genoism" it's called, but no one takes the law seriously. If you refuse to disclose they can always take a sample from a door handle or a handshake, even the saliva on your application form. If in doubt a legal drug test can just as easily become an illegal peek at your future in the company." - Gattaca
  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:40PM (#19015081) Homepage Journal
    Too many people look at insurnace as a charity, and that everyone should be entitled somehow to cheap insurance. That's not what it is. There are two reasons to take out insurance. (1) if you believe the odds of cashing in on policy x the value of the policy exceeds the cost of the loss x the chance of the loss, or (2) if the harm caused by the event uninsured is unacceptable regardless of the low odds of it occurring. We take out auto insurance for the second reason, not because we believe we are going to run into someone, but because they could sue us for $2M and that would financially ruin us. The insurance companies carefully calculate the odds for the first situation, and you can bet every penny that they have determined that statistically they will come out ahead. This is how they determine the cost of policies, and this is why they need as much information on the details of the insured before they can come up with a policy cost. Buying insurance for this reason is like gambling... the house always wins. The margin may be low, but they DO always win in the end.

    If you go into a policy with a "prior condition" that changes the odds dramatically, and they have to adjust the cost of your policy accordingly to keep in the black on the average. This is not unexpected and not unfair. If they are fairly sure they are going to have to pay out on you, your rates are higher because on the average, your payout will be higher than their average customer. The rest of their customers do not want to have to pay for your increased risk

    Of course with unknown preexisting conditions like say, a congenitcal heart defect, they won't win that bet, but they can't know. So they raise *everyone's* rates a hair to make up for the unknown.

    What these ppl here want to do is to take what should be a higher policy rate for them, and dump it onto all the rest of us, a little bit for everyone. That's NOT how it's supposed to work, and I really don't feel like helping you to pay for your insurance policy.

    IMHO, insurance companies should be allowed to conduct any test they want on you. Companies with more tests or more invasitve tests will get less customers so free market will keep the abuses in check. If you don't want to submit to tests, you will probably have to get a different, more expensive policy, and that is to be expected. Though if you pass their tests you get a lower rate than you would have otherwise. Fail the tests and owell, high rates. Quit crying, it's not their fault, that's how life works. Go blame god or something, don't hike MY rates.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ojQj (657924)
      I essentially agree with you, but I'd put it differently. I heard a quote on the radio a couple of years back from some representative of the insurance industry which went to the effect of: "We're okay with not having your genetic information, for as long as you don't have it either."

      Basically someone who knows they are going to die or be disabled soon would pay for the insurance. Once the customer is making decisions based on that information, the insurance company will be forced to raise prices to cover

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