The United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury have issued new regulations designed to protect people’s genetic information. The new rules are interim, pending public comment.
The purpose of the new regulation is to prevent individuals’ genetic data from being used adversely when determining things like health care coverage or employment eligibility, and to encourage greater participation in genetic testing, which can help identify causes and treatments of some illnesses.
Under the new regulations, group health plans and insurance issuers in the group market are barred from increasing premiums for the whole group based on one person’s information. They are prevented from denying enrollment, imposing exclusions for pre-existing conditions, or doing any other kind of underwriting based on genetic information.
In the individual health insurance market, insurers will be prohibited from using genetic information in the same fashion that group insurers are.
Pre-existing condition exclusions for conditions where the patient has already been treated are not affected by the change in regulation.
In addition to the restrictions listed above, health insurance issuers in both markets are prohibited from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information for underwriting purposes or in conjunction with enrollment, and plans and issuers are forbidden from asking anyone from taking genetic tests.
In a statement to the press, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said, “Today’s genetic technologies yield data that are vital to helping Americans make personal, medical decisions. It is essential that we protect such information and ensure it is not misused by health plans or insurers. The rules issued today protect individuals against the unwarranted use of information related to their personal health because no one should have to fear that disclosure of their medical data will put their job or health coverage at risk.”