Genetic Discrimination (and Why Not to Fear It)
Though patients mostly feel favorable about genetic testing when it comes to their own personal health, many harbor doubts about what their employers and insurance companies may do with that information.
Many patients fear that insurance companies may hike rates against those at risk for genetic diseases, or worse deny coverage altogether (a phenomenon known as genetic discrimination). This fear has forced some patients to decide that they would rather not learn their genetic risks at all. This is unfortunate because early detection of genetic diseases, especially cancer, can be essential to timely care and ultimately saves both patients and companies money.
Luckily, the federal government has recognized the potential threat of genetic discrimination and worked to combat it. Since 2009 the government has enforced a new law known as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. This is a federal law which prohibits companies from discriminating against a person due to their DNA, essentially adding a person's genetics to the list of sacrosanct attributes (such as race and gender) that cannot be used to deny health insurance.
The law doesn't cover life insurance nor disability insurance, nor does it override existing state laws. It simply provides baseline protection, which states may then individually strengthen. This model should allow states and companies to stay competitive while also ensuring the protection and safety of anyone looking to learn more about their own genome.