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Act Protects Genetic Information From Insurers

Armen Hareyan's picture

President Bush has signed Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which is to prohibit genetic information use by health insurers and employers.

Availability of genetic information can pose discrimination towards people with genetic background of diseases with no symptoms at all. Health insurers can simply increase premiums for such individuals, and employers can stop hiring such people.

GINA comes to protect people with no symptoms from such discrimination, prohibiting health insurers and employers from accessing their genetic data. There is already another act - Americans with Disabilities Act - protecting people with disabilities and symptoms of diseases.

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GINA may also later prohibit health insurers from covering genetic tests, because the act gives the idea that genetic test is not a basic health test and it should not be provided without serious need of it and without professional monitoring. GINA takes genetic information as private information, which may be used for health issues only.

Health officials also come up with the idea that genetic tests should not be available at pharmacies and it is extremely important to pass tests in professional medical environment only. Researchers are currently using genetic information to find people at risk for disease and take preventive measures for delaying or stopping the disease from developing.

There are several genetic tests that are very successful in predictions, such as breast cancer or cholesterol tests. However, the most of genetic markers linked to other diseases are still being examined by scientists and health professionals are still looking for ways of better understanding genetic information.

Widely available at-home genetic tests can lead to genetic information misunderstanding, inaccuracy and lead to inadequate treatment and anxiety. Already 24 states prohibit genetic tests in non-professional environment. People willing to pass genetic tests need to do it in labs. Genetic tests need a federal regulation, because testing without a professional medical assistance can lead to health risks.