DISCRIMINATION CAN RESULT FROM YOUR GENES?

Getting the results of a genetic test can be a bit like opening Pandora’s box.  You might learn something useful or interesting, or you might learn that you’re likely to develop an incurable disease later on in life.

There’s a federal law that’s supposed to protect people from having their own genes used against them, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.  On May 21, President George W. Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 into law.  Under GINA, it’s illegal for an employer to fire someone based on his genes, and it’s illegal for health insurers to raise rates or to deny coverage because of someone’s genetic code.

But the law has a loophole: It only applies to health insurance.  It doesn’t say anything about companies that sell life insurance, disability insurance or long-term-care insurance.

“GINA was a fabulous accomplishment,” says Robert Green, a researcher in the genetics department at Harvard Medical School.  ”It was long in coming and much needed.  But I think that it was not perfect.”

Green oversaw a study that examined how people react after they learn they have ApoE4, a gene associated with Alzheimer’s.  He found that people who discover they have the gene are five times more likely than the average person to go out and buy long-term-care insurance.

“It would be a natural thing that people might consider if they find out that they are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.  This is a logical outcome to getting genetic-risk information,” Green says.

But when people go make that “logical” decision, there’s nothing stopping the insurance companies from demanding to see the results of their genetic test.  In fact, a long-term-care company could legally require someone to take a genetic test before selling him a policy.

Green says it’s especially ironic that GINA does not apply to long-term-care insurance policies, since they cover the costs of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health aides and other things that people with Alzheimer’s disease often need to use.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from western New York, introduced GINA in the House back in 2007.  She says she fought hard for the law because she didn’t think it was fair that a few wayward strands of DNA could make you essentially uninsurable.

“There were countless people in this country who were not eligible for insurance at all,simply by the way they were born,” Slaughter says.  But she knows the law still has gaps that need to be closed. “And we plan to do that,” she says.

If that happens, the insurance industry will have a thing or two to say about it.  Insurance works best when lots of people purchase policies but only a few actually need to use them.  Selling these kinds of policies suddenly becomes unsustainable if genetic testing becomes widespread, and most — or even all — of the people who buy long-term-care policies do so knowing they’re probably going to develop Alzheimer’s sometime down the road.

When Green talked about his study to a room full of insurance executives a few years ago, he found out just how frightened the industry is of this scenario.  ”These very mild-mannered people in the audience got very, very heated,” he says. “They were standing up and saying, ‘This kind of situation is going to put us out of business.’ “

If you have questions about discrimination, please contact our Firm: Laborlaw@Lineschfirm.com

To read the full article by the Editor and taken from the David Schultz NPR News story, visit: WUSF 

The Linesch Firm provides news and opinion articles as a service to our readers.  Often these articles come from sources outside of our organization.  Where possible, the source is documented within each article as well as a link to the article’s source.  For more information about The Linesch Firm, please visit our website: www.LineschFirm.com

View Attorney Profile

David J. Linesch

Licensed since 1982

Member at firm Linesch Firm

AWARDS

AV Preeminent

RECENT POSTS

  • Discrimination Lawsuit Black Man had to Prepay His Meal
    Posted on October 30, 2015
    Topic: Discrimination

    A black Multnomah County, Ore., sheriff’s deputy is filing a discrimination lawsuit against a local restaurant after, he says, he was made to prepay for his meal even though white customers were not asked to do the same, The Oregonian reports. Brian Eason has filed a $100,000 discrimination suit against a Vancouver, Wash., Elmer’s Restaurant ... Read more

  • BRICK TOWNSHIP SETTLES WHISTLEBLOWER LAWSUIT FOR $250,000
    Posted on October 29, 2015
    Topic: Whistleblower Litigation

    The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit filed under the state’s whistleblower protection law for $250,000, ending litigation between the agency and former Director of Central Service Scott Bundy, who said he was fired after reporting what he alleged to be illegal activities involving former MUA Commissioner Patrick L. Bottazzi. ... Read more

  • Whistleblower Suit Filed Against South Hadley Electric Light Dept.
    Posted on October 28, 2015
    Topic: Whistleblower Litigation

    Workplace abuse spanning more than a decade and failures to address it are among claims at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a municipal light department employee against the agency’s long-serving manager Wayne Doerpholz, engineer Andy Orr, the department itself and the board of commissioners. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf ... Read more

David J. Linesch

Licensed since 1982

Member at firm Linesch Firm

AWARDS

AV Preeminent

RECENT POSTS

  • Discrimination Lawsuit Black Man had to Prepay His Meal
    Posted on October 30, 2015
    Topic: Discrimination

    A black Multnomah County, Ore., sheriff’s deputy is filing a discrimination lawsuit against a local restaurant after, he says, he was made to prepay for his meal even though white customers were not asked to do the same, The Oregonian reports. Brian Eason has filed a $100,000 discrimination suit against a Vancouver, Wash., Elmer’s Restaurant ... Read more

  • BRICK TOWNSHIP SETTLES WHISTLEBLOWER LAWSUIT FOR $250,000
    Posted on October 29, 2015
    Topic: Whistleblower Litigation

    The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit filed under the state’s whistleblower protection law for $250,000, ending litigation between the agency and former Director of Central Service Scott Bundy, who said he was fired after reporting what he alleged to be illegal activities involving former MUA Commissioner Patrick L. Bottazzi. ... Read more

  • Whistleblower Suit Filed Against South Hadley Electric Light Dept.
    Posted on October 28, 2015
    Topic: Whistleblower Litigation

    Workplace abuse spanning more than a decade and failures to address it are among claims at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a municipal light department employee against the agency’s long-serving manager Wayne Doerpholz, engineer Andy Orr, the department itself and the board of commissioners. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf ... Read more