By Lindsay Gloor
March 13, 2017
A bill that passed its first House committee could allow businesses to penalize employees who refuse to undergo genetic testing.
The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act would permit companies to require the testing as part of workplace wellness programs.
Employers providing health insurance would be allowed to increase an employee’s premiums for refusing the testing. Employers that do not offer health insurance could dock the paychecks of workers who refuse to participate in wellness programs.
Wellness programs became popular under the Affordable Care Act. They allow companies to offer employees lower health care premiums in exchange for participating in voluntary health screenings. But genetic testing is currently off limits.
Employees who choose not to participate can be charged 30 to 50 percent more for health insurance. Testing typically includes cholesterol screenings, personal habit questionnaires and sometimes courses in weight loss or quitting smoking.
Congress passed the latter to prohibit health insurers and companies from discriminating based on genetic information. It states there can’t be incentives for providing information or penalties for refusing to do so.
Concern also stems from the nature of how workplace wellness programs operate. Typically, the companies that run the programs are unregulated and would have access to genetic test results paired with employee names. Health information is also occasionally sold by these companies.
Supporters of the bill say it will help employers “promote a healthy workforce and lower health care costs.”
The bill passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on a party-line vote. It’s currently under review by two other House committees.