March 14, 2017
Last week, a House committee approved the bill HR 1313 (Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act). If passed, it will allow corporations to “require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information,” according to PBS.
Employers demanding genetic data from workers is banned by a 2008 law called GINA, the genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law. The new bill would override that, stating that legal protection doesn’t apply when genetic tests are “part of a “workplace wellness” program.”
Although genetic testing isn’t the central focus of the bill as its presented, state sanctioned, pharma corporation enriching “workplace wellness programs” are something a power player politician would lobby for.
The Trump Administration is actually full of big pharma’s representatives, despite Trump claiming he would crack down on them. According to Era of Wisdom:
“The proposed replacement for Obamacare is being drafted by big pharma’s representatives in politics: recipients of hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharma corporations, namely Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House) and Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif).
It’s called the American Health Care Act (AHCA). We don’t really get to see what is in it yet, but those vying for power have privileged access to ponder it before us citizens. Ryan and McCarthy created the bill. They are respectively the 2 House of Representatives members with the closest financial ties to big pharma.
They each received over 200,000$ from pharma corporations in the past 2 years, well documented at MapLight.org.”
The bill HR 1313 seamlessly continues a pattern of the government promoting more restrictive conditions for employment, following in the Obama Administration’s footsteps.
This seamless transition was summarized by STAT:
“Employers got virtually everything they wanted for their workplace wellness programs during the Obama administration.
The ACA allowed them to charge employees 30 percent, and possibly 50 percent, more for health insurance if they declined to participate in the “voluntary” programs, which typically include cholesterol and other screenings; health questionnaires that ask about personal habits, including plans to get pregnant; and sometimes weight loss and smoking cessation classes.
And in rules that Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued last year, a workplace wellness program counts as “voluntary” even if workers have to pay thousands of dollars more in premiums and deductibles if they don’t participate.”
While the right of an employer to make conditions the way they choose should not be delegated to some central authority like government (from an anarchist’s perspective at least), there must be some other reason why this is being pushed.
Maybe it’s because information is harvested by some corporations when they demand it from employees, and harvested data is money.
Continuing from the STAT article:
“They sometimes sell the health information they collect from employees. As a result, employees get unexpected pitches for everything from weight-loss programs to running shoes, thanks to countless strangers poring over their health and genetic information.”
Concerns about where this is headed are expressed in an article titled “H.R. 1313: part of the trend of eugenics”:
“Recently I had genetic testing done, of my own volition, because of my family’s history of breast cancer, associated with a gene mutation common in those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. The conversations surrounding the decision to have testing done were fascinating, because questions about ancestry, genetics, and inherited traits lead one to conversations about the racial prejudice.”
“Luckily, I tested negative for the gene. But what if I hadn’t? What if, a few years from now, I suddenly found myself denied health coverage because of this “curse”? If this bill passes, how many women (and men) who carry the breast cancer gene are going to find themselves unable to procure health care? And would people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent – or other genetically at-risk demographics – be especially targeted for mandatory testing?”
Image credit: Thomas Anthony Zampetti/Flickr Creative Commons