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Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act

May 23, 2008

After thirteen years of Congressional debate, this week President George Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA aims to keep personal genetic information confidential and protect Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment. GINA defines genetic information as: (i) an individual's genetic tests, (ii) the genetic tests of family members of such individual, and (iii) the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of such individual.

Under GINA, group and individual health insurers are prohibited from using genetic information to determine insurance eligibility or increasing an insurance premium based on genetic information. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants based on genetic information. The law, which goes into effect in November 2009 for employers, applies to all public employers, private employers with 15 or more employees, employment agencies, and labor organizations. The law becomes effective June 2009 for insurers.

Moving forward, employers and insurers should draft policies which are consistent with GINA requirements. Failure to comply with the law can result in civil monetary penalties of $100 per day up to $250,000 and 10 years in prison for egregious violations.

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