President George W. Bush wants Congress to pass a law that would prevent discrimination based on genetics.
In a statement at the National Institutes of Health last week, Bush urged Congress and business leaders to work together to pass a bill that would prevent employers from denying people jobs -- and insurance companies from denying eligibility -- based on genetic profiles.
"Unwarranted use of genetic information, and the fear of potential discrimination, threatens both society's ability to use new genetic technologies to improve human health and the ability to conduct the research needed to understand, treat, and prevent diseases," according to a White House statement highlighting the priorities Bush set during the NIH visit. "The Administration will work closely with the science community, employers, and other stakeholders on a proposal that is responsible and fair. Enactment of federal legislation will help guarantee that the nation fully realizes the potential of ongoing advances in genetic sciences."
U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from western New York, introduced a bill last week to set limits on genetic testing to prevent genetic discrimination by health insurance companies and employers. The bill would prohibit mandated testing. It also would stop insurance companies from setting premiums or deciding on eligibility based on genetic information.
The bill refers to a case of genetic discrimination in which a court eventually sided with employees at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and states that federal law doesn't adequately address the issue.
"While many states have enacted some type of genetic nondiscrimination law, these laws vary widely with respect to their approach, application, and level of protection," the bill states.