(June 2, 2008) On May 21, 2008 the President signed into law House bill H.R. 493, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”). GINA provides broad protection from discrimination against individuals based on their genetic information.
To accomplish its purpose in the area of health insurance discrimination, GINA amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), the Public Health Service Act, the Internal Revenue Code, and the Medicare provisions of the Social Security Act; it also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to revise Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) privacy regulations. The effect of these amendments is to prevent health insurers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of genetic information, and to prevent insurers from requesting individuals to take genetic tests. The prohibitions against discrimination apply to both private and government entities, and to non-federal as well as federal government employers.
In the area of employment discrimination, GINA makes it unlawful for employers, labor organizations, and other covered entities to discriminate against potential or current employees on the basis of the individual's genetic information. This prohibition against discrimination applies to hiring, discharging, classifying, and segregating employees, as well as access to training or internship programs. GINA also requires genetic information to be treated as a confidential medical record, and prohibits employers from requiring, requesting, or purchasing such information, with limited exceptions, such as forensic laboratories which conduct DNA analysis for law enforcement purposes, and genetic monitoring of the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace. (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, Public Law No. 110-233, 122 Stat. 881, available at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=