The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed in 2008. Since then, most of the discussion benefit plan professionals have had regarding GINA has focused on HIPAA notice requirements and compliance with GINA restrictions in wellness plans. This month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled its first case brought under GINA and the facts should serve as a reminder for employers about what GINA really does.

By way of background, GINA prohibits health plans from discrimination on the basis of the genetic information of enrollees. Health plans may not use genetic information to make eligibility, coverage, underwriting or premium-setting decisions. Plans may not request or require individuals or their family members to undergo genetic testing or to provide genetic information. As defined in the law, genetic information includes family medical history and information regarding individuals' and family members' genetic tests. GINA also prevents employers from using genetic information in employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and job assignments. Genetic information means information about an individual’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members of the individual, the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of the individual or any request for or receipt of genetic services, or participation in clinical research that includes genetic services by the individual or a family member of the individual.

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