On Thursday, May 1, 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA, S. 358) by a vote of 414-1. A week earlier, on Thursday, April 24, 2008, the United States Senate passed the bill by a vote of 95-0. The passage of this historic legislation follows a 13-year effort by a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, including in recent years, the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF).
The bill prevents employers and insurance companies from requesting genetic testing or information and from discriminating against someone because of his/her genetic status for the purposes of employment or insurance coverage. It only applies to people who have tested for specific genetic markers, not those who have been diagnosed with specific conditions. However, it helps individuals make proactive decisions about genetic testing and counseling without fear of certain negative consequences, including employment or insurance discrimination.
The White House has signaled its willingness to sign GINA into law; a signing ceremony is expected shortly. Once that happens, it will be important to educate all affected groups and individuals about the implications of the new law, and to be vigilant about its observance.