The House passed on a 414-1 vote a bill that makes it illegal for employers and insurers to deny coverage to a person based on their genetic make-up. The legislation, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law.
At the outset, federal lawmakers and scientists lauded the bill, saying that it would allow individuals to take fuller advantage of preventive healthcare programs and participate in medical trials without the fear that their genetic test results would make it impossible to obtain or keep their health coverage. The Senate passed the bill last week on a 95-0 vote.
"What this bill does is open up the possibilities for the most incredible science that we have ever been a party to," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the bill and a longtime proponent of its provisions.
The legislation received the backing of the insurance industry. "We believe the bill strikes the right balance in protecting genetic information, ensuring nondiscrimination and allowing for the innovative technologies and programs that are out there today be made available to millions of Americans," said Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans.