A few weeks ago, congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), a much anticipated piece of legislation, nearly thirteen years in the making. Since the first version of the bill prohibiting genetic discrimination was introduced in Congress in 1995, the legislation has received significant bipartisan support and support from both the Clinton and Bush White Houses. Until recently, however, even in the face of all of that support, just a few members of Congress were able to block the legislation's progress. An agreement has finally been reached, and GINA is now the law of the land; it was signed by President Bush on Wednesday, May 21st.
Regular readers of PredictER Blog know that we have been following GINA; now that it has been signed, it's time to kick the tires and to see what we've got. This is the first of a series of posts in which I share what I see as the ups and downs of this legislation. I'll alternate between the good news and the bad news and conclude with an overall "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". For this post, some good news:
GINA really is a big deal, in the legislative sense. It provides (at least in theory) significant protection from discrimination based upon genetic information in the employment and health insurance contexts. Studies by the NIH and other institutions have revealed that the vast majority of the American public is afraid of being discriminated against in these arenas and believes that it would be wrong for employers and insurers to do so. Furthermore, additional studies have revealed that a significant number of people who would be likely to benefit medically from genetic tests choose to forgo them for fear that they will lose their job, or health care coverage depending upon the results. Along the same lines, many people are choosing not to participate in important research that requires subjects to undergo genetic testing out of fear of discrimination. Clearly, then, GINA should help to allay public apprehensions and to encourage both the pace of research and the practice of personalized medicine.
But … stay tuned for the "bad news". – Sam Beasley