HHS Secretary Tom Price said that he has concerns about a House bill that would force employees to undergo genetic testing, according to STAT. The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, HR 1313, would allow employers to impose penalties of up to 30% of the total cost of the employee’s health insurance on those who want to keep their data private.
On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday Price said that while he’s not totally familiar with the legislation, what he does know makes it sound like “there would be significant concerns about it. If the department’s asked to evaluate it, or if it’s coming through the department, we’ll be glad to take a look at it.”
2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a company cannot discriminate against employees based on what data can be collected from genes. But GINA includes an exception that allows employees to volunteer that information under non-mandatory wellness programs. There can’t be incentives for participation or punishment for not participating. But companies are making such wellness programs compulsory.
The bill is facing heavy opposition since even before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the measure last Wednesday. Nearly 70 organizations, including the AARP and the March of Dimes fired off a letter to the committee expressing their outrage.
They wrote that the bill “would allow penalties up to a maximum averaging many thousands of dollars per year if employees decline to disclose information from genetic tests that they, their spouses, their children or their other family members have had, or if they do not reveal their families’ medical histories. Allowing penalties of this magnitude would clearly allow employers to coerce employees into revealing their private genetic information.
“Workplace wellness programs are fully able to encourage healthy behaviors within the current legal framework: they need not collect and retain private genetic and medical information to be effective. Individuals ought not to be subject to steep financial pressures by their health plans or employers to disclose their or their families’ genetic and medical information.”