On October 1, 2009, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services released the joint, final interim regulations under Title I of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). These final regulations will be effective December 7, 2009.
In general, Title I of GINA prohibits health plans from discriminating against covered individuals based on genetic information. "Genetic information" includes family medical history and information regarding individuals' and family members' genetic tests and genetic services.
Specifically, Title I of GINA states that health insurers may not use genetic information to make eligibility, coverage, underwriting, or premium-setting decisions. Health insurers may not request or require individuals or their family members to undergo genetic testing or to provide genetic information. Further, they cannot use genetic information obtained intentionally or unintentionally in decisions about enrollment or coverage. Finally, the use of genetic information as a preexisting condition is prohibited in both the Medicare supplemental policy and individual health insurance markets.
The Title I regulations attempt to clarify the intent of the law by modifying the Privacy Rule to state that genetic information is health information and to prohibit the use and disclosure of genetic information by covered health plans for underwriting purposes, which include eligibility determinations, premium computations, applications of any pre-existing condition exclusions, and any other activities related to the creation, renewal, or replacement of a contract of health insurance or health benefits.
Title II of GINA, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on genetic information, is scheduled to become effective November 21, 2009. However the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has not yet issued final regulations.
The Interim Final Rule was issued October 7, 2009 with a 60-day comment period. This rule is online, along with directions on how to send your comments to the relevant agencies, including the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Internal Review Service, at Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Genetic Information.
You can also go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, enter the ID number of the document (IRS-2008-0103) and then follow the instructions there to comment.
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Last Reviewed: February 25, 2012