New Federal Law Regulates Collection and Use of Genetic Information by Employers and Group Health Plans

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On May 21, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA” or the “Act”).[1] GINA prohibits employers and group health plans from discriminating on the basis of “genetic information,” and strictly limits the collection of such information by employers and group health plans. Significantly, “genetic information” includes not only the results of genetic tests, but also covers information about an individual’s family medical history. Employers

and group health plans may be liable under GINA for unlawful collection of genetic information, even

if no discrimination is alleged. Conversely, employers and group health plans may be liable under GINA for unlawful discrimination, even if they can establish a lawful basis to possess the genetic information. Due to GINA’s broad definition of “genetic information,” this law will affect all employers and group health plans, regardless of whether they use genetic testing.

The requirements imposed by the Act in the employment context will enter effect in October 2009 and the requirements for group health plans and health insurers will generally enter effect on January 1, 2010.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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