TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida House overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would bar life insurers from using genetic testing to deny policies.
The House bill would prohibit life, disability and long-term care insurers from canceling, limiting or setting premiums based on DNA testing. If the House version prevails, it would impose some of the nation's strictest rules on how life insurers can use genetic tests in their underwriting decisions.
Rep. Chris Sprowls, the sponsor of the House legislation and the next in line to become the chamber's speaker, called the bill a matter of genetic privacy.
Life insurers oppose the House bill, saying it is too broad and restrictive.
"We continue to express our concerns that this bill could disrupt the life insurance market and raise prices on consumers," said Curt Leonard, the regional vice president for the American Council of Life Insurers.
"We support the stated purpose of protecting consumers from the improper use of their private genetic information," Leonard added in his statement.
The industry favors a Senate version that would allow insurers to use genetic testing information in some cases, if it's part of an applicant's medical record.
If the competing proposals cannot be reconciled, the effort to enact DNA-related restrictions on the insurance industry would fail for a second straight year.
Sprowls was not immediately available to comment on the Senate proposal.
The rise of direct-to-consumer genetic tests have caused concern among privacy advocates who worry that information could be sold to third parties, including life insurers, who could use the information to discriminate against people who have certain genetic markers.
Some commercially available DNA tests market themselves as a way for consumers to discover if their DNA contains genetic markers associated with certain conditions and diseases. A marker, however, does not necessarily mean a person will develop the corresponding disease.
While federal law already prevents health insurers from refusing medical coverage to Americans with congenital health conditions and accessing a patient's genetic code, Florida's proposal would extend protections to those seeking life insurance based on genetic testing.
By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN
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