This week, as Republicans continued to debate the best way to reform health care using small government conservative principles, one House committee voted on a novel way to improve our health care system — let employers subject their workers to DNA tests.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and first reported on by STAT News and LifeHealthPro, would allow employers to require their employees to submit to a genetic test or face thousands of dollars in penalties.
If that sounds like it should be illegal, it's because it sort of already is. Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employers "from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information."
House Republicans were able to get around that law by making genetic testing part of "workplace wellness" programs — employer-sponsored programs that typically include things like free yoga or health classes that are exempt from certain GINA requirements.
For example, Mic has a workplace wellness initiative that allows employees to participate in a free bike-sharing program. If this law were to pass, Mic could continue to offer free biking around New York City, while also coercing employees into disclosing their genetic predispositions to certain diseases through invasive cheek swabs and blood tests, all as part of the same strange program.
The bill passed the House Education and the Workforce Committee on party lines. It is expected to be folded into the second phase of the Republican health care bill, which, in case you had forgotten, is supposed to be a rebuke of government overreach and nanny state-ism in the Affordable Care Act.