When applying for a job or working for a particular employer, the last thing one would expect is having to pass some genetic tests. That situation may come to change very soon, as a new US House committee bill would see hefty penalties being enforced on employees who decline to participate in such tests. A very disturbing development, to say the least.
Genetic Privacy is Coming To An End
Under the current US regulation, genetic testing cannot be enforced by employers. Both genetic privacy and nondiscrimination are protected by federal laws. However, if the US House committee has a say in the matter, that scenario may come to change very soon. A new bill will be voted, which would effectively allow employers to fine employees declined to participate in genetic testing. It remains semi-unclear as to what purpose such a bill would serve, though.
What is rather remarkable is how the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed this bill earlier this week. It seems evident some big plan is brewing behind the scenes that aims to collect genetic information from all employees of US-based companies in the future. Making sure this information becomes part of the “workplace wellness program” ensures this data can be collected in a mandatory manner.
Participating in company wellness programs provides employees with some form of incentive as well, though. Not only will it monitor and improve their health, but it can also lead to health insurance discounts. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, employers can offer a discount of 30% for health insurance premiums, assuming the employee voluntarily participates in such a wellness program. For some companies, strict health requirements must be met, which justifies genetic testing in a way.
It did not take long until this bill met serious opposition from House Democrats and privacy groups. Various organizations feel this legislation undermines basic privacy provisions. It would also gives employers a legal basis to discriminate against certain types of workers, which would not bode well for the US economy as a whole. In fact, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was passed in 2008 to prevent employers from discriminating staffers based on their genetic information.
Under the new law, employers would be able to impose penalties on employees who do not partake in genetic testing as part of the company’s wellness plan.. To be more specific, the employees would pay up to 30%$ of the health insurance coverage out of their own pocket. For the average employee, that would result in a fee of over US$5,000. Quite a steep amount, especially for not sharing genetic information with people who seemingly have no business knowing about it in the first place.
It is evident this new bill is designed to collect valuable information from employees and use it for advertising purposes. Genetic information can be sold to advertisers who can then target specific individuals for their products. Not parting ways with this data will get employees fined. It is a very strange world we live in these days, as privacy is no longer a basic right in the United States by the look of things.
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