Legislation has surfaced in Congress that would allow employers to collect biometric and genetic information from employees and their family members as a precondition for participation in a company wellness program.
The bill would essentially repeal a portion of the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA), which in part bars employers from collecting genetic information on employees or members of their family for certain wellness programs.
The GINA bars health insurers and employers from discriminating against people based on information that their genes carry – say, a family history of heart disease or stroke.
The law contains an exception for employers that collect information from employees for a voluntary wellness program, the kind with no carrots or sticks for participation.
It is aimed at wellness programs that offer employees discounts on their health insurance in exchange for participation. Wellness plans may require participation in a health risk assessment or that the employee meet certain fitness or health goals.
Under the Affordable Care Act, employers can offer discounts of up to 30% on health insurance to employees that participate in wellness plans. In some cases, the employer can offer up to a 50% discount if the employees meet certain health targets.
HR 1313 would allow employers to collect biometric information from employees and their family members as a prerequisite for participation in wellness programs that provide discounts or other financial incentives.
Employer groups have decried the GINA’s strict rules, which they say inhibit their ability to help employees improve health metrics like high blood pressure and obesity, among others.
Bill’s key language
HR 1313’s key language states that:
“The collection of information about the manifested disease or disorder of a family member shall not be considered an unlawful acquisition of genetic information with respect to another family member as part of a workplace wellness program.”
The bill passed along party lines in the House Education and the Workforce Committee, (22 Republicans for and 17 Democrats against). It still has other committees to clear before the full House votes on the legislation and sends it to the Senate.
Proponents of the bill, like the American Benefits Council, say that it would preserve wellness plans, which they say have suffered under the GINA.