GINA Discussion Topic At February HHS Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health & Society Meeting G

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

Employers are facing new headaches and liabilities under new federal genetic information nondiscrimination and privacy rules for employers and health plans enacted under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. GINA’s genetic information nondiscrimination and confidentiality rules for employers became effective on November 21, 2009.  Its separate genetic information nondiscrimination and privacy mandates for group health plans generally apply to post May 20, 2009 plan years.  Employer and health plan efforts to comply with these mandates has been complicated both by the challenges they create for certain wellness, disease management, environmental safety and other obligations, and the absence of final regulations.

With the compliance deadline now passed, many employers and health plans now are struggling to maintain viable wellness, safety and disease management programs within the allowable parameters of GINA and the newly tightened disability discrimination requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  In the face of these challenges, many employers are arguing that these regulations should be revised in order to allow and encourage employers and their health plans to provide beneficial disease management, wellness and safety programs made too risky by the current regulatory structure. 

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) plans to hold a public meeting of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society (SACGHS) of the U.S. Public Health Service on February 4-5, 2009.  As part of the planned agenda, SACGHS will get an update from Federal agencies on activities related to the implementation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the coverage and reimbursement of genetic tests, the oversight of genetic testing, and the retention and use of residual dried blood spot specimens after newborn screening. The meeting will offer the opportunity for members of the public to attend the meeting on a space available basis or to view a Webcast.

The SACGHS  meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 4, 2010, and from 8 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. on Friday, February 5, 2010, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, NW., Washington, DC 20008.

Other announced agenda items include:

  • The review of a revised report on gene patents and licensing practices;
  • The review of a public consultation draft report on genetics education and training;
  • An information-gathering session on the mechanisms and policies related to genomic data sharing;
  • A preliminary discussion to help plan a future session on implications of an affordable genome;
  • A report on activities of the Clinical Utility and Comparative Effectiveness Task Force; and
  • Updates from Federal agencies on activities related to the implementation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the coverage and reimbursement of genetic tests, the oversight of genetic testing, and the retention and use of residual dried blood spot specimens after newborn screening.

For more information about registration for the meeting, submission of comments and other details, here.

If you have questions about or need assistance evaluating, commenting on or responding to the  GINA, or other employment, health or other employee benefit, workplace health and safety, corporate ethics and compliance or other concerns or claims, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation and employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer has advised and represented employers on these and other labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters for more than 20 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

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©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.

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