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Government Republicans Businesses Privacy Science

New Bill Would Allow Employers To Demand Genetic Testing From Workers (businessinsider.com) 397

capedgirardeau quotes a report from Business Insider: A little-noticed bill moving through the U.S. 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 U.S. law, 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 2008 genetic law prohibits a group health plan -- the kind employers have -- from asking, let alone requiring, someone to undergo a genetic test. It also prohibits that specifically for "underwriting purposes," which is where wellness programs come in. "Underwriting purposes" includes basing insurance deductibles, rebates, rewards, or other financial incentives on completing a health risk assessment or health screenings. In addition, any genetic information can be provided to the employer only in a de-identified, aggregated form, rather than in a way that reveals which individual has which genetic profile. There is a big exception, however: As long as employers make providing genetic information "voluntary," they can ask employees for it. Under the House bill, none of the protections for health and genetic information provided by GINA or the disabilities law would apply to workplace wellness programs as long as they complied with the ACA's very limited requirements for the programs. As a result, employers could demand that employees undergo genetic testing and health screenings.
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New Bill Would Allow Employers To Demand Genetic Testing From Workers

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  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @11:35PM (#54016655) Journal

    The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed.

    Freedom.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The committee is not the entire House. If you think all GOP are going to support it you're insane. If you think all Dems will oppose it, let's wait till the bribes get handed out.

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @12:32AM (#54016789) Journal

        The committee is not the entire House. If you think all GOP are going to support it you're insane.

        No, the ones who are in vulnerable districts will be given a pass, but only after they know they have enough Republican votes to pass it. This phenomenon even has a name. It's called the "Hastert Rule", proudly named after its inventor, a long-time Republican House leader who was also a pedophile and is currently in prison.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by dbIII ( 701233 )

          long-time Republican House leader who was also a pedophile and is currently in prison.

          Yes, but it's not like he had his own email server!
          The same with Senator Peter King - he raised money for terrorists, but no email server, so he's OK (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_T._King#Support_for_the_IRA)

          • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @07:07AM (#54017453) Homepage

            Mishandling highly classified documents and running a private email server to avoid freedom of information laws is the bit you missed out. Perhaps the Dems should have voted for the anti-Establishment candidate in the primaries rather than crowning Queen Hillary and then perhaps we'd not be faced with four years of that orange lunatic.

            • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @09:13AM (#54017677) Homepage Journal

              There's no evidence Clinton was trying to avoid FoIA requests.

              As for the last sentence, perhaps the Republicans shouldn't have run that orange lunatic in the first place. Are you seriously going to blame Democrats for that? That's absurd.

              • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @12:42PM (#54018371) Journal
                There's definitely evidence of it. For example, NPR quotes Dan Metcalfe: [npr.org]

                He said what was "unprecedented" actually was Clinton's exclusive use of private email and her own Internet service provider in lieu of an official account "so that the records of her email account would reside solely within her personal control at home." That means "she managed successfully to insulate her official emails, categorically, from the FOIA, both during her tenure at State and long after her departure from it — perhaps forever." He called that "a blatant circumvention of the FOIA by someone who unquestionably knows better.

                It is certain that she didn't like email because of the risk of investigation, see this video clip [youtube.com].

                All of this really doesn't matter anymore though, it's in the past and more an issue for historians than anything.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "Under House rules, the Speaker schedules floor votes on pending legislation. The Hastert Rule says that the Speaker will not schedule a floor vote on any bill that does not have majority support within his or her party — EVEN IF THE MAJORITY OF THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE would vote to pass it"

          So the speaker subverts the majority of the votes using his position to prevent votes on bills not supported by his party.

          And now we have a President that Americans didn't vote for, they voted by clear majority fo

        • This was the guy who impeached Clinton for getting a blow job from someone *over* 18.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        True.

        But I think what is going to eventually happen is that DNA tests will all be done at Birth, and all hospital visits as a matter of screening for potential genetic diseases and proactively treating them rather than waiting for them to manifest.

        However our current knowledge of DNA is not sufficient to actually go "you will get cancer in 5 years because you have gen sequence XYZ", it's not even reliable enough to predict hair or eye color, just a very large margin of error of "you say you have hazel eyes,

      • The committee is not the entire House. If you think all GOP are going to support it you're insane. If you think all Dems will oppose it, let's wait till the bribes get handed out.

        So what you're saying is there is still time to make this another example of the Democrat's utter moral bankruptcy? Thank Gawd, I was getting worried there. I'll get back to you after I talk to Kellyanne. She'll have the straight scoop - probably something Obama or FDR did.

  • I guess NASA [slashfilm.com] was right after all.
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
    How much are they going to pay me for it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Slightly less than it's worth.

      That's the point. Employers get to legally discriminate against potential and actual employees who have a genetic disadvantage in order to save money on insurance premiums.

  • BS summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by tranquilidad ( 1994300 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @12:04AM (#54016727)

    The linked article can't be read if an adblocker is active.

    The current state of the law:

    Employees who refuse to participate in an employer wellness program can be charged up to 50% more for employer-provided health insurance.

    If genetic testing is part of the wellness program then employees have to voluntarily authorize the genetic test. If an employee participates in the wellness program but declines included genetic testing then they can't be penalized with the higher insurance premiums.

    The new state of the law, if this bill passes:

    Employees who refuse genetic testing that is part of a wellness program can be considered non-participants in the wellness program and be charged the higher insurance premiums.

    The comment in the summary that the new bill would "...let employers see that genetic and other health information." is the current state of the law as it relates to wellness programs (Work wellness programs put employee privacy at risk [cnn.com]). There is nothing in the new bill that suddenly decreases patient/employee privacy.

    "Mandatory" wellness programs, themselves, were controversial and lacked privacy protections when the Democrats insisted everyone participate. They're no less controversial today as the Republicans expand those wellness programs with additional components.

  • Gattaca (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stephenmg ( 265369 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @12:05AM (#54016729)
    So we will soon have Gattaca? https://www.themoviedb.org/mov... [themoviedb.org]
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Standardized testing and exams should have filtered most by merit before university over the past decades.
      The problem is educators keep wanting to make results fit policy and share good grades with very average students so they all get into university.
      To some spending on books, computers, having smaller class sizes, using educational robot kits, buying more computers will make very average students very smart.
      A good educational environment can only make even the most below average students smarter. Any
      • Re:Gattaca (Score:5, Insightful)

        by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @05:11AM (#54017293) Journal

        Standardized testing and exams should have filtered most by merit before university over the past decades.

        no. Standardized testing just isn't that good. It correlates well with success in America, because y'all so obsessed with it that you make good performance a requirement for success, so it becomes self fulfilling.

        The problem is educators keep wanting

        Nope. That's the domain of politicians and whoever they stuff into the upper echelons of the relevant organisations. Actual teachers seem to despise the testing obsession since it's stressful for everyone, and a pointless waste of time.

        Most of the smart nations mix in a bit of an IQ test with their standardized testing and just never have to face such issues.

        That's just gibberish. IQ tests are not a panacea which actually do anything at all. The only thing they reliably predict is performance on IQ tests. They're also poorly correlated with success because they don't test anything particularly useful and emphasise speed over depth. Also, the country work abort the highest rate of top rated universities per capita doesn't do standardised testing. It ain't perfect bet there's nothing nearly so silly all stuffing IQ tests into the exams.

        You can't fix social mobility with IQ tests. Hell you can't fix ANYTHING with IQ tests.

        • Re:Gattaca (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @07:30AM (#54017481)

          You can't fix social mobility with IQ tests. Hell you can't fix ANYTHING with IQ tests.

          My cousin was sent to a special needs class which in Germany at the time effectively destroyed any hope you had of ever getting into a University. This was done on the basis of an analysis of his grades and an IQ test. He ended up being sent to a vocational school and graduated as a plumber because the specialists in classifying humans by IQ declared that with his limited intelligence a lowly plumber was the most he could ever hope to aspire to. He eventually escaped this system of human quality classification after he graduated by completing a business degree at a private school. He now owns a big plumbing company and by big I mean the kind of company that bids for substantial contracts like doing the plumbing large office buildings and factories. I have seen enough similar examples for me to conclude that IQ tests are at best an extremely inaccurate instrument and at worst completely useless.

          • I have seen enough similar examples for me to conclude that IQ tests are at best an extremely inaccurate instrument and at worst completely useless.

            Chalk one up for me if you like too. The 11+ exam in the UK (used to choose who goes to the selective state schools, a.k.a Grammar schools[*]) is more or less an IQ test; the questions are of a similar sort. In the practice tests I was scoring something like 25%, which was at the special needs level. My dad was similar and I think could get a solid 90 on IQ tes

  • Rank your job interviews by merit as always.
    But what to do with all the failed average applicants who still demand full employment?
    The genetic test result can then sort all applicants who have no skill but still have to be considered.
    Finally a way to not have to consider a lot of applicants for a reason other than saying they are lack skills and further education at a top university has not helped.
    A work force thats smart and healthy can be hired without the need to explain why all average applicants
  • voluntary (Score:5, Funny)

    by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @12:42AM (#54016809)

    The eye gouging program is entirely voluntary.

    Employees can qualify for not having premiums doubled by simply removing an eye. It's not our fault, but our fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value. And you'll still be able to see if you were responsible and maintained two healthy eyes prior to the program. It won't reduce our healthcare costs if you join the program, but it will reduce our payroll costs if you fail to qualify for the discount.

    Rest assured that you can't be penalized under current law if the eyeball you submit for testing is defective in any way, but should the legal landscape change we may be forced to re-evaluate the policy.

    Have a nice day

  • slavery is introduced again....

    When will this shit finally end?

    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      To bad the former vice president Joe Biden really did say GOP was bringing back slavery with ' 'Put Y'all Back in Chains' .

  • Keep voting GOP candidates in...

    Sooner or later, give them enugh rope and they'll kill off their voters.

    I can't wait to see republicans who lose their job due to "private" genetic testing who then vote republican's because they don't have jobs.

    And the democrats are not nearly as bad. They are not as good as they could be but they are not even in the same league as the Republicans when it comes to being willing to let people just flat out suffer and die.

    For god's sake, make abortion illegal so the republica

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      For god's sake, make abortion illegal so the republican golem will dissolve and we can stop destroying the country over the issue.

      The "nanny staters for freedom" will just find some other way to poke into everyone's bedrooms just like similar groups do in places where abortion is still illegal. They need an "other" to demonise and attack or they just look like a bunch of rich kid bullies that never grew up.

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @01:25AM (#54016931)

    The biggest problem with the US health insurance is the way it's tied to employment: it means that people end up in weird employment-based risk pools, that they lose health care when they lose their jobs, and that people don't get the same kind of tax breaks when insured on their own.

    There are plenty of the proverbially "advanced nations" that have private health care instead of "single payer"; however, they usually have private health plans that aren't tied to employers. That's what Congress should fix, first by giving individuals the same kind of tax breaks as employers for health plans, and then by gradually phasing out employer-based health plans altogether.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Good to see you are growing up and getting some sense instead of peddling all that survival of the fittest libertarian crap like you used to do.
    • Congratulations for getting to the historical root of the problem.

      I'd further like to see no tax benefit at all to having health insurance, but your proposal is a huge step in the right direction.

      • I'd further like to see no tax benefit at all to having health insurance, but your proposal is a huge step in the right direction.

        Just like the mortgage interest deduction. But it's politically impossible to get rid of it: it's a redistribution to the most powerful political group in the US, the middle class.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      All to make them more obedient slaves...

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @01:40AM (#54016955)
    This "we own you" crap - wasn't there a civil war over managers with that sort of attitude?
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @02:00AM (#54016993)
    IMHO "employer-provided health care" should be a voucher up to a certain amount that the employer gives you to spend on any health insurance of your choice. That way it remains a purely financial transaction between you and the employer, while all personal health information remains between you and your insurer. Then there's no excuse for any health information being leaked to your employer. No entrapment that comes about when your employer is the source of your health insurance. If you lose or change your job, you can keep the health insurance - paid out of pocket or with vouchers from your new employer.

    I was manager of a small business when we instituted employer-provided health care. The operating premise is that by combining your employees into an insurance pool, it stabilizes both the premiums paid into the pool (one person could quit their job, but it's highly unlikely all your employees will quit their jobs at the same time), as well as the payouts due to employees getting sick (one person can get sick, but it's highly unlikely all your employees will get sick at the same time). But a pool is a pool. Unless your employees are uncharacteristically healthy or unhealthy, there's no statistical difference between a pool of employees, and a pool of random people who bought their own health insurance (out of pocket or using vouchers from their employer).
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @03:43AM (#54017189)

    The purpose of this bill is to bypass the ACA's current protection mechanism against discrimination due to preexisting conditions. Currently, we know very little about what sections of our DNA actually does (with a few exceptions) and even less about how sections are activated. How we "know" what risk factors you have via DNA is strictly a statistical analysis and based on observation rather than investigations into a particular gene's function. So really, this just gives insurance companies a blank check to claim any bullshit they want to change people with preexisting conditions. The irony here is that your DNA is the very first condition for coming into existence!

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      What insurance companies do is statistical analysis. If they look at say car accidents they don't care what it is about being 18, male and driving a sports car that makes you more accident prone than 35, female and driving a soccer mom car. They just want to measure how much and charge you a premium. If you're genetically pre-disposed for a lot of costly illnesses it's the same thing, it's not "bullshit" it's 100% real.

      Of course there's almost nothing you can do about it, we all have DNA and there's very fe

  • Seems more like a way of having a DNA database of a large part of the population than anything else.
  • In any normal country the insurance industry would be fighting this. Insurance is insuring against risk. Without risk there is no insurance. If an insurance company knows 100% that you will die or cost them something then they won't offer you insurance but if they do offer you insurance then you would be a fool to take it since you aren't going to need it.
  • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @08:42AM (#54017607) Journal
    Even if it got as far as passage, it would never survive in courts. First of all, it allows discrimination in compensation based on race. The court arguments will pretty much stop at that. But it also allows discrimination based on yet-to-be-proven-to-be-genetically-caused disabilities. That's going to be enough to get it laughed out of the courts rather than just thrown out.
  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @10:21AM (#54017829)
    "employers could demand that employees undergo genetic testing and health screenings"

    And I could demand that the employer go fsck themselves sideways. There's this still lingering and weird and unhealthy (speaking of :) ) thinking at companies that they are doing their employees some big favor by using their talents, capabilities and time. It's not so. It's an agreement, that until we think our treatment and our compensation is worth lending our resources. Should it become not so, then bummer, this is still a fairly big world with lots of employers in it.

    Maybe this sounds a bit idealistic, but acting like a powerless workforce victim will actually get you closer to becoming one.
  • Tool For Trouble (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @10:40AM (#54017879)
    Way back in the 1980s when companies complained of insurance rates for their workers the sales agents would casually mention that if a few of the older workers were laid off the insurance rates would go way down. Companies could create excuses for laying off or firing older workers and frequently did so. You can bet that with genetic testing any individuals will be laid off or prevented from advancement so that they are frustrated and quit their jobs. Companies need to be prohibited from gaining any knowledge of a worker's DNA.
  • Meanwhile Trump distracts the press with nonsense and everyone falls for that distraction.

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