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Bill To Outlaw Genetic Discrimination In US

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the hands-off-my-genes dept.

Privacy 353

fatduck sends us a brief note from New Scientist about the overwhelming passage in the US House of Representatives of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. As written, the bill would prohibit insurance companies from charging higher rates, and employers from discriminating in hiring, based on the results of genetic tests. A Boston Globe editorial notes that the bill has been held up in the Senate by the action of a single senator, who has an (outdated) objection based on his anti-abortion stance. President Bush has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

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353 comments

At long last. (3, Funny)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012503)

Now if they would only do something about flying car fuel efficiency standards.

Damnit (2, Funny)

amplusquem (995096) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012527)

I have the legendary cytosine-guanine combo going for me.

So what is the problem? (4, Insightful)

genrader (563784) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012537)

I fail to see why this is even an issue?

If Insurance Company X wants to discriminate that's fine and dandy. Big deal. Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace and find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices, but what really is wrong here? It's like saying an insurance company can't charge people different rates based on sex.

It's just silly and another anti-discrimination agenda that makes people across both party lines and ideologies "feel good" about themselves when really, they're just making the economy less efficient.

Re:So what is the problem? (5, Insightful)

Falesh (1000255) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012565)

So that poor 5% of the population who have been born with some nasty genetic baggage can not only look forward to a worse life then the rest but also have to pay through the nose too? Not my kinda society thank you.

Re:So what is the problem? (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012621)

There is little reason to require private companies to offer universal coverage as they have enormous incentives to cheat(because if they can avoid expensive patients better, they make more money). If you want universal coverage for hard luck diseases, it might as well be rolled into medicare(or some updated replacement with a better regulatory model).

As someone who is relatively healthy, I'd really rather not call paying for people with genetic conditions 'insurance', as it isn't. I'm fine with society at large stepping in and covering/mitigating their medical problems(because we are wealthy beyond imagination), but the idea that they can buy insurance against a condition after it is known is simply wrong. It's cost sharing with no risk component at all.

Re:So what is the problem? (4, Insightful)

breagerey (758928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012705)

As someone who is relatively healthy, I'd really rather not call paying for people with genetic conditions 'insurance', as it isn't.

The important bit, to me anyways, isn't discrimination against somebody who *has a inherited illnesss... it's discrimination based on a genetic predisposition.

Re:So what is the problem? (2, Insightful)

NFNNMIDATA (449069) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012713)

You already are paying for people who can't/don't pay, however. Part of the reason medical care costs so much is all the people who can't/don't pay anything at all. Hospitals and clinics have to write huge amounts off all the time, either due to indigent patients or insurance companies that pay whatever amount they feel like paying. Basically with insurance in the mix what we have at this point is a failed version socialized medicine - we all still pay for each other, just everyone who pays, pays even more.

Re:So what is the problem? (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012975)

Tort reform would go a long way towards lowering prices. Practicing doctors need huge malpractice policies to protect themselves from juries that do not want to face the relationship between awarding a patient with an out sized amount for pain and suffering and higher costs at the doctor's office. And I'm not arguing against compensation for poor care, just that current decisions are out of line with reason.

Re:So what is the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012841)

yeah, but aren't people who think like you genetically inferior ?

and if they are, shouldn't we as a society get rid of those genes?

really, I mean, why bother with insurance, we should build detainment camps
and just round you all up and cook you for glue

it would make things more efficent that way, wouldn't it?

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012943)

You are confused, illiterate or both. I'm proposing that it is a fine thing for society to help people that are born sick by simply giving them medical care, but insisting that it should not be compared to personal insurance. There is nothing morally repugnant about this line of reasoning, it simply asks for unambiguous language.

Re:So what is the problem? (2, Interesting)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013111)

So, you don't mind paying higher taxes to cover genetically forecastable diseases (such as some forms of cancer or even some forms of alcoholism) but you do mind paying more for insurance?

However, imagine other cases:

Imagine being fired because you carry a gene that is linked to an increased likelihood of problematic behavior (certain genes associated with certain forms of alcoholism, for example, or maybe genes associated with aggressive tendencies). We already ban discrimination based on other genetic factors such as race, why not prevent people from discriminating against people on the basis of what they might do or what they might cost based on genetics tests?

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013263)

Explicitly making it a tax makes it clear that it is a tax and maximizes the cost sharing effects(so the insurance company that ends up getting the patient with the 1 in 300 million disease doesn't have to go out of business in order to treat them; this is ridiculous, but it makes the point). I prefer taxes to onerous regulatory models, which is pretty much what we have now, as they are more visible and somewhat more likely to get people to consider whether they are actually a good idea.

And really, I just don't envision a world where people make short sighted decisions based on simple genetic information. I might not like getting fired for having an alcoholism gene or two, but I would also be glad I wasn't working for an asshole that would fire people for simply carrying a gene. I see anti-discrimination laws as a testament to how backwards our society is; in a more progressive society, discrimination would simply be a bad business decision. Someone mentioned Gattica and their stomach churning; they missed the point of the movie, that in the end, we aren't simply a reflection of our genes, and acting like we are is folly.

Re:So what is the problem? (2, Insightful)

avxo (861854) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012981)

So, your kind of society is one where a private insurance company must insure everyone who walks in the office, against their own judgment, because to do otherwise is discrimination? An insurance company is a business, like any other. And businesses that operate in the real world -- not in a world of gingerbread houses and lollipop lanes -- are out to make money, and they do so by making sound business decisions.

Re:So what is the problem? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013087)

The cold Darwinist side of me says, "The free market is enforcing Darwinism" Which would kinda point towards things like, those with nasty genetic baggage adopting, instead of having biological children with the same genetic baggage. Thus ending an otherwise cyclical problem.
The compassionate side of me says, "Shouldn't those with genetic diseases but covered under Medi-care already? Wouldn't that make "geneticly high risk" a non issue for insurence companies?

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013113)

You can have your lovey dovey society for now. It wouldn't exist without natural selection. Those 5% aren't meant to succeed in life and if all goes well won't exist within a few generations. Failing in life means that they won't find a mate or will have to settle for an inferior mate.

We aren't talking about discrimination based upon irrelevant genetics. This is like stopping an insurance company from accepting someone with a pre-existing condition that has been diagnosed with an objective test.

Insurance companies are for profit businesses and they do have the great responsibility to the public to be good neighbors that everyone places upon them. These are not charity organizations. They are basically casinos, they are the house and they rig the odds. If you are foolish enough to toss money into the slots you deserve what you get. Choosing to charge higher rates or not to insure high risk clients is no different then the house adjusting the payout below the actual odds.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013247)

As it stands now society is favoring, genetically, those who are poor, superstitious and don't plan ahead. I would guess that there is some genetic component to these, likely indirectly by other less than socially desirable inclinations. The rich you see, who by our social standards are the unsuccessful ones thus by your logic have better genes, do not reproduce as much.

Re:So what is the problem? (4, Insightful)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012607)

Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace and find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices

That's a BIG "probably". Talk to someone who is unable to get any kind of private medical insurance at all from any company at any price, due to some red flag in their medical history.

In the U.S.A. being un-insurable is pretty much a sentence to eventual bankruptcy should an illness strike.

Re:So what is the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012955)

What is all this talk of medical insurance?

Does the US provide no free healthcare? If not, why not?

Re:So what is the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013341)

Because that would mean higher taxes and not enough US politicians have the guts to risk (re)election.

Notice how the Iraq war is highly unpopular yet Bush somehow manages to keep his office. It's because taxes haven't gone up significantly even though the US somehow has to pay for the war eventually.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

wwwojtek (246402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012689)

...find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices
some people may just face higher risk and nobody will offer them insurance "without outrageous prices." "Outrageous" is of course a very subjective term - if I am 10 times as likely as you to get sick, the break-even ("actuarially fair") price that I should be charged is 10 times higher than your price. So, the idea of the bill seems to be providing insurance to people subject to higher risk at discounted prices. One possible outcome of it is driving up the prices and hence pricing out people with low risk - standard implication of adverse selection problem (people with high risk will be more likely to buy). There is certainly going to be inefficiency as a result

Before dismissing the whole idea, note one thing: having bad genes is a risk that people would like to insure against and having such an insurance would be economically efficient. However once information about genes is revealed, we are in the realm of inefficiencies - consumers will act on this information and so will insurance companies, either insurance will be underprovided or prices will have to reflect this information. So, how to deal with it is an interesting and important (and hard) problem, though I doubt that straight banning of pricing based on genetic tests is the right choice

Re:So what is the problem? (4, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012723)

This is exactly the case for nationalized health care. Insurance companies are about mitigating risk. Once you've tested positive (at least for some conditions), you're no longer a risk. A rational insurance company would then set your rates at the cost of treatment.

However, as a society, we expect to have a certain incidence of these genetic disorders. It's unfair to expect the individual to pay for it -- they did nothing wrong, they shouldn't be punished. We as a society either need to decide that we don't care to help these people, tough luck for them, or we need to decide that we look out for our own and pay for the health care for these sorts of disorders.

Alternatively, we could come up with some plan that said that whoever your insurance company is when you have the test, they're on the hook for all future related bills -- but that's really just the same thing as society paying for it, we've just migrated the cost from a tax into insurance premiums, and it seems to me that hiding it that way is a bad thing.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013233)

but that's really just the same thing as society paying for it, we've just migrated the cost from a tax into insurance premiums

But it's not really the same as sociey paying for it... it's the same as (well, it IS) the other people in that insured group paying for it. It could be just the 100 other people in that person's company, who are co-insured, paying for it. Some disease might cost $1 million to treat while that person yet lives... and 100 people get to pay for it in your scenario. And, of course, most employers will HAVE to bail on providing insurance under those circumstances, or they and the other employees will go broke paying for it.

Re:So what is the problem? (4, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012739)

I fail to see why this is even an issue?

Even if the insurance part of the bill is of no interest to you, there is an employment discrimination component as well.

Re:So what is the problem? (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012761)

Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace and find some way to offer these people insurance without outrageous prices,



You need to be hit with the clue stick about how the insurance industry works.


Try finding health insurance without answering questions on preexisting conditions. Good luck, you'll need it.

If you have certain conditions, the insurance companies (all of them) don't want you. You're undesirable.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012863)

You need to be hit with the clue stick about how the insurance industry works.

But first, you might want to get some more life insurance, you know, in case they hit you a little too hard.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

slughead (592713) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012795)

It's just silly and another anti-discrimination agenda that makes people across both party lines and ideologies "feel good" about themselves when really, they're just making the economy less efficient.

I think this law also "discriminates" against those of us with good genes by making us pay higher insurance premiums than we deserve. We can't change the genes we were born with! Why make us suffer?!

The problem is: Insurance companies should be able to discriminate based on anything you're comfortable with them knowing. If you have a genetic propensity for heart disease (like I do), you should pay more unless you take good care of your body (like I do). If my insurance company weren't so nervous about discriminating against fat people, my rates would be much lower, since the chances of a person with my lifestyle getting seriously ill are much lower.

Even if my insurance company could discriminate based on genetics, my flawed genes wouldn't raise my rates. This is because the actuarial tables would still weigh in my favor due to the life I have chosen to lead.

If it's not worth it for you to take care of yourself, fine; don't. I shouldn't have to pay for it because you don't, though.

Thank God it's now "evil" to smoke instead of a "lifestyle choice" (which obesity is slowly becoming; if it doesn't become a 'disease' first), otherwise they wouldn't offer discounts to non-smokers. Oddly enough, I didn't stop smoking until I started paying my own health insurance. Funny how that works out.

This reminds me of the ADA Episode of Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t! [youtube.com] . Nothing government can do will make people equal to one another, and it's stupid to try. Moreover, most of your intrinsic flaws (which everyone has) can be overcome well enough to succeed.

As a side note, this article is an editorial, which is really unnecessary.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013107)

Okay. Suppose someone has a genetic condition that ups the odds of something bad happening. He knows about it, but--since his lifestyle isn't quite as good as yours--he'd rather the insurance company not know. He's afraid that if they know, he won't be able to afford insurance.
If something bad happens involving that genetic condition, the insurance company will treat him worse than if he had told them. They could sue him for not telling.
Insurance companies require their customers to list pre-existing conditions. If you don't tell them about pre-existing conditions, and you're contractually required to do it, then they can sue you and win.

Re:So what is the problem? (2, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013163)

The problem is: Insurance companies should be able to discriminate based on anything you're comfortable with them knowing.

Why? The whole point of insurance is to spread risk over a large population. With perfect information, all the healthy people would go to the cheap carrier and everybody else would pay through the nose because they lost the genetic lottery. That's no way to run a society.

Re:So what is the problem? (3, Insightful)

whiteknight31 (744465) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012801)

Part of the problem is that just because you have a particular gene that can lead to an increase risk of a certain disease doesn't mean that you will eventually fall victim to that disease.

Re:So what is the problem? (2, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012837)

It's just silly and another anti-discrimination agenda that makes people across both party lines and ideologies "feel good" about themselves when really, they're just making the economy less efficient.

So? "Economic efficiency" isn't the highest good in the world. And they're not "just" making the economy less efficient, they're potentially giving people access to lifesaving treatment that they might otherwise not be able to afford. If we save a few lives at the expense of a little efficiency, I'm all for it.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013161)

"Economic efficiency" isn't the highest good in the world. And they're not "just" making the economy less efficient, they're potentially giving people access to lifesaving treatment that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

Keep in mind that this is the same government who just put Brazil on a "watchlist for piracy" for taking that same stand.http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05 /05/1633207 [slashdot.org]

It's EXACTLY like basing rates on sex (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012883)

unless you have some way becoming male or female without genes?

let's be consistent here - if you can't discriminate based on sex or race (both passed by genetic information) why discriminate based on some other genes?

It's like saying "we'll cover you for stuff on chromosome 11, but not chromosome 12"

Re:It's EXACTLY like basing rates on sex (2, Informative)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012951)

You do know that men and women receive different insurance rates and benefits, right?

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013017)

yep some people are genetically better than others and we will allow them to have insurance. Let's call these people "ubermenschen" [/cynical]

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013019)

Eventually some other insurance company will probably pick up the pace

And if they don't, what then? Making the claim that someone will do X in a system that demands rational choices requries that you lay out why doing X is rational, in which case you then have to explain why everyone else is not doing X despite the fact that it is apparently rational.

Personally, I'm suprised the anti-abortionist senator had any complaints with this, after all, what does he think people are going to do if it becomes cheaper to just kill people in the womb rather than paying for medical care?

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013167)

Senator Coburn's complaint was that the original bill had a loophole, and still allowed genetic discrimination against unborn babies/fetuses.

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

Venim (846130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013127)

I take it you havent seen that really crappy movie GATTACA before

Re:So what is the problem? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013253)

I don't know if this has been properly set to words before, but the form of capitalism that this country promotes appears to be one of self-actualization... which is to say, that everyone has a chance at becoming top dog if they get up off their ass and work really hard. The truth of that statement is highly debatable, but you'll notice that the core mantra is that success and failure comes through individual effort and ability.

Genetic, racial, or sexual discrimination goes very much against that mantra. The individual has no control over whether or not they're predisposed to gout, was born without a penis, or has pasty white skin. There is no incentive to work harder there. There is no "right" and "wrong," no form of punishment for bad behavior, what have you. It may not matter to the system if someone had a hand in their eventual fate or not, but for encouraging maximum output it matters quite a lot.

The form of capitalism we've chosen to idolize isn't about the most efficient markets, but about creating incentives for individual effort. Genetic and racial discrimination does not create said incentives, and therefore does not fit within the system.

The flip side of all of this is that if your fate is in your hands, you have only yourself to blame for any shortcomings in it. And, as such, there is nothing particular to rebel against.

Re:So what is the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013327)

I went through several bouts of kidneys stones and have found myself uninsurable. Inspite of never getting sick and not having had a stone in over five years no one will touch me. Just imagine if I had a tendency for something really expensive. After Katrina a section of south is considered uninsurable. Insurance companies don't like to loose money, ever. People think they play the averages. In the old days that was true but it's more profitable to avoid paying entirely. Some one won't take up the pace because if all their clients end up costing them hundreds of thousands a year there's simply no way to charge enough to cover costs. Back in the seventies I was opposed to national health care because insurance was good and it was cheap. Medical expenses are running several times the inflation rate and insurance is out of control. Time for the government to step in. Unfortunately we'll have to wait for an administration that isn't in bed with the drug and insurance companies.

Will "illegal" mean it won't happen? (5, Insightful)

eldurbarn (111734) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012555)

It's illegal to fire someone for trying to start a union at his place of work, but I got fired, anyway. They claimed I had quit.

Suddenly the burden of proof falls to the injured party and all the "big bad company" has to do is have some form of plausible denyability.

Big words, high ideals, changes nothing.

Re:Will "illegal" mean it won't happen? (2, Funny)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012747)

It's illegal to fire someone for trying to start a union at his place of work, but I got fired, anyway. They claimed I had quit.

Couldn't you have made it obvious by screaming and clutching at the drapes as the security guards dragged you out?

Re:Will "illegal" mean it won't happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012923)

pretty easy. Ask them to show you your resignation letter.

Re:Will "illegal" mean it won't happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013189)

People write resignation letters when quitting?

Re:Will "illegal" mean it won't happen? (2, Interesting)

packeteer (566398) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013283)

It it illegal to be fired for making a safety claim with your state Labor and Industries department but I was fired anyway. The boss claimed it was job performance despite having never been written up and my piece per hour rate was higher than any other employee.

This is why Labor Day is my favorite holiday. We celebrate easter and Christmas for a guy that is arguable if he even existed let alone died for you. Yet on labor day it is documented on the record that many workers died for the rights we have today. It boils my blood when people get trampled despite those rights.

Questions after reading the summary... (4, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012569)

(1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')
(2) What makes his objection "outdated"? (For that matter, what *is* the objection?)
(3) What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?

At least the main thrust of the article is expounded, but, geez, does this guy run around in a mask and a cape and do all his legislating at night, or why exactly did the submitter feel the need to leave his person and actions cloaked in mystery?

Re:Questions after reading the summary... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012627)

While I agree it wouldn't have been hard to write out the senators name the whole point of a summery is to give you a taster of the article, not to answer all of your questions. Go RTFA if you want to know the answers to 2 and 3.

Re:Questions after reading the summary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012635)

(1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')

Apparently it's "Bill"

Re:Questions after reading the summary... (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012663)

(1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')

(2) What makes his objection "outdated"? (For that matter, what *is* the objection?)

(3) What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?

I'll tell you the answer to one of these if you RTFA for the other two:

The answer to (3), 'What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?' is: A "hold." Beautiful, huh?

Re:Questions after reading the summary... (1)

OakLEE (91103) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012817)

(1) Who is the single senator? (whose name is apparently much more difficult to type than 'single senator')
(3) What is he actually doing that's "holding up" the bill?


In the US Senate, any member is allowed to place a secret hold [wikipedia.org] on legislation to prevent it from coming up for a vote. Standing Rules of the Senate RULE VII [senate.gov] . Notably, there was a news story [cnn.com] last year where Sen. Ted Stevens put a secret hold on a bill that would have required the government to publish online a database of federal spending.

Legislative Holds (4, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012875)

I was not familiar with the practice of legislative holds, so I googled it and found this description [senate.gov] by the same senator that is holding up this bill, Tom Coburn. I thought others might find it interesting as well.

Re:Questions after reading the summary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012945)

Adding a question:

(4) Guess who was the biggest sponsor of his election campaign.

Re:Questions after reading the summary... (1)

Harin_Teb (1005123) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013027)

1) Senator Coburn (R-Ok.)
2) I'm not sure what makes it outdated, I would guess it is because the exception for fetuses has been removed, but that may not be true.
3) He has put a "hold" on the bill.

Generally I find the article helpful in answering such questions.

As far as my opinion goes, it seems fair for a person to not want an exception allowing for genetic discrimination against fetuses because of that whole "eugenics" issue.

Oh NOW you tell me (5, Funny)

rantingkitten (938138) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012573)

After I already paid the guy to become a borrowed ladder and spent four weeks in leg braces to get taller. Thanks for nothing!

Re:Oh NOW you tell me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013169)

No one takes the law seriously.

I was really worried about this ... (2, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012579)

... since there isn't enough in my current medical history to be used against me by insurance companies. Now I feel perfectly safe and secure since everyone knows every company adheres to each and every law no matter how specific.

The GINA? (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012581)

What exactly qualifies as a genetic test? It says in the first article that it can be based on inherited illnesses. No tests need to be performed for that. Does this mean that I can get cheaper insurance even though I have a few body parts that women don't have? Those are genetic, AFAIK.

Re:The GINA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012899)

I wonder if they're pronouncing it like "Geena" or like "China."

Re:The GINA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012953)

yeah, me too. I was gonna make a joke involving the acronym GINA and the male/female point that I made, but i couldn't think of a clean one.

It doesn't sound like it goes far enough (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012587)

While I agree with the spirit of the bill, they need to do something better. Genetic information should be restricted medical information only. More than the fact that employers and insurers should not be allowed to discriminate based on the information, they shouldn't be allowed to have or see that information at all. Preventing them from making decisions based on the information is an area frought with grey areas that it runs the risk of being highly ineffective because in spite of the fact that there are many criteria by which insurers are prohibited to descriminate, they manage to skirt the matter by descriminating based on "similar" and statistically related information... you know, like zip codes instead of ethnicity?

The only way to truly prevent the problem from occuring is to make it illegal for them to house the information entirely. There's no grey area there. They either have it or not. Their databases either contains provisions for it or not. If they have it, you shouldn't even have to ask why. They should be fined, reprimanded and shut down until the information is proven to be purged from their databases and database record formats.

If someone suggests "but it's about identity!" I'd have to remind them that the SSN is already being illegally abused for that purpose... it's more than enough.

I completely agree ... (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012839)

blanketly outlawing discrimination based on ones genes seems such a no-brainer to me - it encompasses discrimination by race, sex, height, beauty, dumbness, maybe even sexual-orientation - forget all those other laws let's just call it what it is - if you're different because your genes are different you should be treated equally with everyone else

Re:It doesn't sound like it goes far enough (1)

G27 Radio (78394) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012845)

I think you're absolutely correct.

Think about this: Two or more people qualify for the same job. Who is going to get the job? Will it be the guy that they deem will be healthiest or the one of the others. Sure they may not be allowed to discriminate based on that, but I have a feeling that the healthiest candidate will be chosen as the best qualified for the job. Nothing illegal about hiring the most qualified candidate.

Maybe you'll already have a job, but your company needs to lay some people off. Who's going to get laid off? If it's you, how can you prove that you got laid off because of discrimination? Maybe you can, maybe you can't.

That loophole will be abused. Think about that next time you have to give a company a specimen containing genetic material just to get a job. That part of the system is already in place.

Hmm. (2, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012589)

I'm in favor of this law, don't get me wrong, but I thought we'd been practicing "genetic discrimination" since life began.

Re:Hmm. (0, Troll)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012693)

Oh man, evolution is so 90s...

Any downsides? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012597)

Shouldn't an airline be allowed to deny a pilot a job based on a profile that determines he's likely to suffer seizures? Should an insurance company have to carry and not charge extra for somebody whose genes are programmed to misfire when the applicant turns 35?

Re:Any downsides? (4, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012789)

Shouldn't an airline be allowed to deny a pilot a job based on a profile that determines he's likely to suffer seizures?

That is what's called a bona fide occupational requirement and yes, they can.

Should an insurance company have to carry and not charge extra for somebody whose genes are programmed to misfire when the applicant turns 35?

Well, the idea behind insurance is to spread risk over a large pool so when you need to pay out you have the cash; that's why gruop policies are generally cheaper than individuals. Insurance companies already do a lot of risk assessment to determine what to charge; this bill prevents them from selectively excluding people due to a possibility of an adverse outcome.

Now, they should be able to use testing results for a statistically valid sample to determine overall group risks and price accordingly; but that's what they do today.

Can't allow insurance companies to cherry-pick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012935)

If medical risks are not spread over a large enough population, there's effectively no insurance. The healthy with no medical costs spend a small amount of money to cover against catastrophy, and no one else can get insurance.

As for your pilot question, I see no reason why genetic screening of pilots wouldn't be allowed. There's a societal benefit to making sure medical coverage isn't denied to people, which allowing insurance companies to cherry-pick customers would violate.

Imagine an expensive condition with genetic markers, that no insurance company in their right financial mind would cover. Now, when that hypothetical disease starts to kill someone, without that insurance company on the hook to pay for the coverage, we have two choices: pay for the medical coverage as an entire society (who do you think pays for "uninsured" people going to hospitals?), or deny the patient coverage and let him die.

But an individual with some hypothetical condition that makes him prone to seizures has no right to be an airline pilot, and society has an obvious reason for not allowing him to be a pilot.

already done (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012629)

If I remember correctly there is already a law banning such discrimination based on genetics- signed during Clinton's administration.

some thoughts (4, Insightful)

gargletheape (894880) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012665)

1. We already allow insurance companies to perform complex calculations using family histories, lifestyle choices, income, living conditions etc. A whole industry is dedicated to the task of deciding as accurately as possible just who is likely to live long. I can already deduce with superb accuracy how long someone is likely to live. Conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension can all be predicted rather well already. Genetics essentially is the icing on the cake, adding rare genetic conditions to the list of scannable factors. This is an incremental change, at best. Indeed, even with perfect genetic info, chance, will continue to play a major role. Hell, anyone can be hit by a car.

2. Perfect information about someone's future health might compromise the insurance system, but this is an institutional problem, not a moral one. (A weak analogy, I think, is webmaster vs. adblock. ) That two people, having vastly differing health prospects (one has undiagnosed Huntingtons, say) should pay similar premiums, is hardly an ethical judgment. It simply is how the industry operates now. Perhaps other ways exist? Life has existed before insurance, believe it or not. If indeed the function insurance fulfills is crucial under all situations, new ways of organizing it will emerge. We shouldn't seek to ossify technology just to protect status quo or a business model.

Re:some thoughts (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012749)

All correct. But someone with a rare genetic disorder that makes lengthy and expensive treatments necessary would have a really hard time finding an insurance they can afford. Now, chronically ill people also don't tend to be the richest, quite the opposite.

So what are the alternatives? I see two. Banning genetic testing, so the insurance takes the risk to get one of those money drains (pardon for being so blunt and cruel, but that's what those people are to an insurance), or allowing them and killing people with those disorders, because they can't afford an insurance.

And while on a purely "genetic" level this would actually be the natural (i.e. brutal) "right" way, to kill people (indirectly) who are unfit to live, I come from a country who has practiced something similar quite directly less than a century ago.

I do not want that time back. I'd rather pay more for my insurance to keep those people alive.

Re:some thoughts (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012803)

2. Perfect information about someone's future health might compromise the insurance system, but this is an institutional problem, not a moral one.

Indeed. In the short story "Life-Line" by Robert A. Heinlein, a man creates a device that can accurately predict when a person will die. For his troubles, he gets murdered by insurance companies and his invention destroyed.

Not sure how to think about this. (4, Interesting)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012683)

Once the genome is completely mapped, and every congenital defect is detectable, the life insurance industry will change completely. Even if they're not allowed to check, or base their rates on the results, you can bet insurance companies will take a quick look at what they can expect over the life of the policyholder. If I have a heart condition or a neurological defect that's going to kill me sometime between 55-70, that can really give the actuaries something to chew on. While not 100% certain of when I'll die, they know when I'm most likely to die, and the rest is all accident insurance.

A lot of auto insurance customers are up in arms about the "insurance score" that most US auto insurers use to determine part of your premiums. For those who don't know, the insurer runs a credit report to see how responsible you are with your finances. I guess the idea is that someone who doesn't pay their bills on time is most likely to commit fraud or be absent-minded and get into more accidents. Basing part of your life insurance premiums on a known portion of your long-term health history seems fairer to me than this.

I hope we do wind up with most of the genetic puzzle solved sometime in my life. We could wipe out most inherited conditions in 2 or 3 generations. A lot of people think it's too much like engineering a society, but I think it would be a great service to the species. There should be some limits, but who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)

Re:Not sure how to think about this. (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012731)

who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)

Why don't we begin immediately? Kill yourself, you'll do mankind a favour.

Re:Not sure how to think about this. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012779)

Personally I see a big difference between a car and a life insurance. You don't have to have a car. But you kinda have to have a life.

Unless you don't want to live.

Re:Not sure how to think about this. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013039)

There should be some limits, but who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)

Like Judaism, blackness, and homosexuality?

Re:Not sure how to think about this. (5, Interesting)

Assassin bug (835070) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013129)

There should be some limits, but who wouldn't want to get rid of conditions that produce people who are a burden on society? (retards, etc.)


My sister is mentally retarded. Whereas I agree with your statement in part (i.e., ridding her of her condition would be a wonderous thing for her), I strongly disagree that she is a burden on society. Rather, society places a much, much larger burden on her because of her condition. She is gainfully employed and pays taxes, what more would society want from anyone? I don't think that "retards", as you so kindly refer to people like my sister, are as great a burden as those who seek to committ homicide. Maybe there might be a genetic condition associated with such behaviors. Anyway, the bigger problem is who becomes the genetic "gold standard" and who makes the descision. Should that be left up to companies that house their employees in creepy sterile office buildings [thinkquest.org] ?

Re:Not sure how to think about this. (1)

slashdotusername (1077071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013275)

Also, we need a genetic test for genocidal maniacs. ...and if we believe what the media tells us, we can already start systematic abortion of autistic people because they're eccentric, and blacks because they're lazy, and Muslims because they're terrorists...after all, it's not like Action T4 [wikipedia.org] could lead to some stereotypes turning into genocides. That's never happened before, and we all KNOW that that Jewish problem had to be solved. Besides, the final solution was such an efficient one. This will be modded flame bait, but seriously, why is this type of behavior accepted in the civilized world today if the Nazis were supposedly "bad" for doing just this sort of thing?

Re:Not sure how to think about this. (1)

Anthem.uxp (646163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013381)

Because not everything different is bad, and the world isn't black and white. Sickle-cell disease is bad, but gives resistance to malaria. Diversity is why and how evolution works.

Eh? (0)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012755)

So they're saying that charging type-1 diabetics more for health insurance is going to become illegal? And no longer will they be able to not hire men for work at rape crisis centers? And sperm banks will be required to accept donations from women? This sounds like socialized medicine via the back door.

(if you disagree, post)

BASIC MEDICAL NEEDS ARE COMMUNISM!!!!11 (4, Funny)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012851)

"This sounds like socialized medicine via the back door."
I guess by your inflection we are to assume you are not in favour of socialized medicine? This is why americans don't deserve socialized medicine. They are arrogant, selfish and deserve to die pennyless in the street from common bacterial infections. May the last sound your wheezing body hears, be some guy on a cel phone pausing from his conversation to tell you to 'get a job' before spitting in your tear soaked face.

Re:BASIC MEDICAL NEEDS ARE COMMUNISM!!!!11 (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012911)

Ah, the perfect way to respond to a stupid posting - with an even dumber posting. Well done, sir!

To correct the grandparent posting: the law refers to genotype, not phenotype or other expressions of genotype. This has as much to do with socialized medicine as search algorithms have to do with lacrosse.

To correct the parent posting: don't worry, the system we have now in the US has all the disadvantages of socialized medicine (unbelievable bureaucracy, arbitrary decisions, ridiculous waits, incredible inefficiencies) without any of the advantages. Enjoy your smug superiority in complete comfort.

Re:Eh? (1)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012889)

Why shouldn't men be allowed to work at rape crisis centers?

Re:Eh? (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013005)

Because your average rape victim doesn't want to be comforted, supported and counseled by a man shortly after another man has raped them. That's a simplistic statement, but it's generally true.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19013209)

So they're saying that charging type-1 diabetics more for health insurance is going to become illegal?

If they have a genetic basis for developing type-1 diabetes, then yes, they will require that people with type-1 diabetes genes be charged the same.

And no longer will they be able to not hire men for work at rape crisis centers?

Only if being genetically male is a disease.

And sperm banks will be required to accept donations from women?

Riiiiighht...

This sounds like socialized medicine via the back door.

Ah, yes, the obvious conclusion that could only be reached by someone ranting about women donating sperm.

Nice in theory, but ... (4, Insightful)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012775)

don't you run the risk of people getting a prognosis for some horrific and debilitating disease and suddenly wanting the gold-plated health and disability plan, which the law would say has to be issued? Like going out and buying fire insurance for your burning house?

This is ridiculous (2, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012787)

I have people in my family, people that depend upon me, that have conditions such as autism, aspergers, with strong genetic components, and even Huntington's, that is as close to being genetically determined as you can get -- and I oppose such "anti-discrimination" measures for a very good reason:

If we aren't allowed to "discriminate" on the basis of criteria we see fit, we are being denied the use of our most precious human asset: our neurons.

However, since the government insists on interfering in family matters by prohibiting euthanasia within the family setting -- the government thereby must pay the full costs of humane care for people thereby kept alive.

PS: I do not by the way consider it unethical to encourage my relatives to avail themselves of every benefit available to them under the law. I consider it unethical merely to fail to speak out against such laws given the benefits accruing to me indirectly via them. The same standards of behavior should hold for anyone who benefits from any form of "anti-discrimination" law.

Re:This is ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012917)

Your family should stop breeding. It sounds like your gene pool is fucked.

ps There is no such thing as aspergers syndrom.

Actually... (2, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013083)

Your family should stop breeding. It sounds like your gene pool is fucked.

Actually, although it is by no means an ethical duty of my family members to avoid passing on "defective" genes, the lines containing these genes are in-laws to my nuclear family and, yes, the Huntington gene is not being passed on -- although given the fact that the gene has been identified and may be amenable to editing even in the germ line in the near future renders it far less urgent that it not be passed on. The genetic susceptibility to aspergers is another matter entirely. Environmental triggers of autism spectrum have yet to be identified so it isn't reasonable to expect people with autism spectrum disorders to terminate their bloodlines simply because some corporations or governments have imposed environmental disaster upon them.

If you want people with genetic defects to stop having children then you should take your case up with Ashkenazi Jews who seem to have a preponderance of genetic disorders which are -- interestingly enough -- highly correlated with higher cognitive performance. You can tell them "correlation doesn't imply causation" or something to get them to disappear from the face of the earth... Go for it...

Bush said he would sign the bill. (2)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012823)

That right there killed any chance of it getting through Congress, so discussing the bill's effectiveness might be pointless. Also, there are claims that scientists have found a gene for alcoholism. What else might our genes do to us that insurance companies might want to know about? If, for example, there is a gene that makes you prone to highway hypnosis. That sends you likelihood of you being in a accident up and, if this bill is not passed, probably your insurance rates. Of course, you are still more likely to be in an accident and have your rates go up then.

Mutant agenda (1)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012849)

And when I get up before my Congregation [churchoftherahowa.com] and advocate the genetic improvement of the human race, I could be hauled off and jailed for thought crime just because I don't want my grandchildren to have six fingers and a nictating membrane!

  This is a clear violation of my religious freedom, as well as my freedom of conscience.

(In case my ham-fisted irony is somehow lost on you: http://www.bloggernews.net/16539 [bloggernews.net] )

Bill to outlaw... (-1, Troll)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012869)

This is the worst fucking idea I heard today on Slashdot!

non-humans? (3, Funny)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012901)

Wouldn't this mean you couldn't refuse to hire my dog if he filled out an application? I think rover might finally pull his own weight.

But would it forbid the AACS-LA from suing me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19012927)

if I have the sequence AAGCTTGCACACAAAGGCTCCTCATGATCCGTTCGACAACCCCGTACCCG ATCCCGGAGATAAA somewhere in my DNA? How the hell am I supposed to take this out of every cell if they send me a takedown letter?

Fix your genes before the tests. (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012989)

I wonder.

Let's say that eventually (or inevitably) we are going to be able to alter our genes with gene therapy.

Alter out genes to the point that we get a perfect genetic score card. Heck, offer social services that promulgate genetic repair.

Profiling would become less of an issue if you can change the profile, would it not?

This litigation seems prudent, but the balance between law and technological advancement needs to be watched carefully.

What's the point ? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19012999)

What's the point of including insurance in this bill ?

Insurance was invented during a time when things really were left to chance, if genetics become usefull enough that insurance companies could use them to screen policicy applicants, couldn't that mean that insurance policies themselves would be obsolete ?

Bullshit (0, Troll)

bigmauler (905356) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013099)

Why does Slashdot let articles through like this? The submitter managed to put so much personal opinion in the 1st paragraph, its a wonder I just don't start reading fox news for unbiased, fair and balanced headlines....

Everyone is missing the point (3, Insightful)

Doctor Faustus (127273) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013149)

There are genetic tests under development (and a few already available, like Huntington's) that will allow much earlier detection of some diseases. In many cases, this will allow earlier treatment, extending lives and probably reducing overall medical expenses. However, no one is going to be willing to take the tests if they're going to become uninsurable because of it.

This isn't so much about discrimination or allowing actuaries to do a good job as it is about letting new tests become useful at all. After all, the insurance company has no more useful information if you don't take the test than if they're not allowed to use the results.

First phone call I make when this passes... (2, Interesting)

oasisbob (460665) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013227)

So, I was tested, and I have a Y chromosome. You'd better give me cheaper car insurance at the XX rate, or I sue.

What about Army, Navy, Airforce? (2, Interesting)

mavi_yelken (801565) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013361)

If you have some kind of condition that makes you probable to cardiac arrest under high stress conditions or low-g environments (astronauts?) and there is genetic screen process available for this shouldn't these institutions be allowed to test candidates for these? After all, they do eliminate people based on physical fitness, eyesight etc. which are all heavily influenced by genetics.

Why not charge more? (1)

cavehobbit (652751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19013379)

If someone has the genes for osteoporosis, early heart attacks, predisposition for cancer, why not let insurance companies charge more?
They charge more if you live in high crime areas, high storm areas, etc.

That would be an incentive for those with these predispositions to engage in preventative treatment to get lower rates.
But since most of these predispositions show increase along the lines of 10-40% of things that themselves are of minor risk, I doubt most would cause big increases in rates, though some would.

I would rather pay less if I do not pose those risks than pay for someone with a higher risk of some expensive condition. Especially if that someone is at risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and obesity, yet still buys every meal at McDonald's. Those clueless dummies need to pay more for insurance, not be subsidized by the rest of us.

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