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Health News Florida

Florida Senate Bill Targets Use of Genetic Information By Life Insurers

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach
Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach

A Senate Bill that would block life-insurance companies from using genetic tests to determine coverage is gaining some traction in the Florida Legislature.

Senate Bill 258, which was filed last month by Fernandina Beach Sen. Aaron Bean, now has a companion bill in the House.

Pace Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson recently sponsored HB 879.

Bean said he’s sponsoring the bill out of concern that DNA-testing companies, like 23andMe, are selling consumers’ private health information.

“What worries me is life insurance companies that keep tabs on us and could, perhaps in the future, either deny or limit coverage based on a test, all without our knowledge,” he said.

A federal law passed in 2008,the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act,prevents health insurers from using genetic information to deny or limit coverage.

 

Bean last year filed a bill identical to SB258, but the idea died in both chambers.He said the 2018 bill got broad support in the Senate and made it to final committee but ultimately ran out of time.

“Hopefully we got a little wind in our sails going into session this year with some of the momentum we received last year,” he said. “But everything is a dice roll.”  

Critics of the bill, including The American Council of Life Insurers, contend the genetic information helps insurers determine risks.

“We want to appropriately price the risk,” said physician Bruce Margolis, who represented the life insurance lobby at a 2018 Senate hearing of Bean’s bill.

Bean said nothing precludes insurance companies from requiring a medical exam.     

“That’s totally different than going back [and saying], ‘Oh I found you took this DNA test eight years ago and we’re gonna use that in pricing or denying you coverage,’” he said. “I think that’s the wrong way to go, using that [information] with the consumer's knowledge.”  

Bean’s “freedom and privacy” bill is currently before the Banking and Insurance, Health Policy, and Rules Committees.

The the legislative session begins March 5.

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