In what is being cautiously touted as the most important law passed in a year, last year Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prospectively prohibited employer discrimination on the basis of genetic testing. Somewhat surprisingly, President Bush signed it into law, a fact curiously/conspicuously omitted by the New York Times’ article (bias, anyone?).
This is a rare example of a policy issue and stance that would be difficult for a member to vote against if presented on the floor (after all, who wants to be seen as in favor of genetic discrimination?), but one would think the vested lobbying interests (read: biotech companies, insurers) would have prevented such a bill from making it out of committee intact. The scope of the bill is limited to employment discrimination, so I’m guessing that has a lot to do with the lack of opposition. If the bill prohibited the use of genetic information in insurance calculations, there would have to be a new CBO score on Health Care Reform. Either way, I’d also guess that any currently vested interests didn’t expect enough of a financial stake in mere testing to oppose the measure.
Either way, I applaud Louise Slaughter and Olympia Snowe (isn’t she great?) for their foresight, and would wager that President Bush has moved one small notch higher in the eyes of history.