The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which Congress passed in 1996, outlawed genetic discrimination in group health insurance plans.
HIPAA was designed to guarantee the "portability" of health insurance, allowing workers to maintain insurance coverage if they lose or leave their jobs. HIPAA prohibits the exclusion of an individual from group health coverage based on health status, including genetic information. It states explicitly that genetic information in the absence of a current diagnosis of illness shall not be considered a preexisting condition. HIPPA required the Secretary of HHS to promulgate privacy regulations for individuals' electronic health information if Congress did not enact privacy legislation within three years. As of May 2000, Congress had not enacted privacy legislation, and the Secretary's privacy regulations were expected to be promulgated soon.
Hudson K.L., Rothenberg K.H., Andrews L.B., Kahn, M.J., Collins, F.S. Genetic discrimination and health insurance: an urgent need for reform. Science, 270:391-3. 1995. [Full Text ]
Last Reviewed: May 9, 2013