Florida Senate Bill Targets Use of Genetic Information By Life Insurers

Feb 28, 2019
Originally published on February 28, 2019 5:09 pm

  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 Aaron Bean, now has a companion bill in the House.

Pace Republican Representative Jayer Williamson recently sponsored HB 879.

Bean said he’s sponsoring the bill out of concern that DNA 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.

Federal law already prevents health insurers from using genetic information to deny or limit patient coverage.

In 2008, the United States Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, also known as GINA, which bars health insurers and employers to using genetic information to determine coverage.

Bean last year filed a bill identical to SB258, but the idea died in both chambers.  

But 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 that 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 consumers knowledge.”  

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

The the legislative session begins March 5.

Copyright 2019 WJCT 89.9 FM Jacksonville. To see more, visit WJCT 89.9 FM Jacksonville.