Bill Targeting Use Of Genetic Information By Insurers Advances In Florida Legislature

Apr 24, 2019

A bill that would bar life insurances companies from using genetic tests to determine coverage is inching closer to passing the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina, Tuesday requested the Senate Rules Committee to advance the House version of the bill (HB 879) - which already cleared the Florida House - in place of his Senate bill (SB 258).

Related: Florida Senate Bill Targets Use Of Genetic Information By Life Insurers

The committee approved the changed by a vote of 8-4 and sent the House bill to the Senate floor, but not without some resistance.

“You’re talking about an invasion of one of your most precious personal liberties,” said Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Broward County, who supported the Senate bill, but opposed the House version.

The key difference between the two bills is has to do with informed consent. Under the Senate version, DNA-testing companies, like 23andMe, would be required to get permission before selling someone's DNA to life insurers. The House version, however, completely bans the use of genetic information in canceling, limiting, or denying life-insurance policies.

Critics like Florida insurance lobbyist Paul Sandford said people should be allowed to share their genetic-test results with insurers - if they choose. 

“If a person gets a genetic test, the results come to them. They should decide how they’re used. The state shouldn’t just say you don’t have that choice,” said Sandford. “If you can find it, it’s to your best advantage, you should be able to release it.”

The bill's language also had some lawmakers like Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St.Petersburg, worried.

“My DNA is mine. I own it. It belongs to me,” said Brandes. “This limits my ability to enter into contracts of my choosing on my information.”

Brandes was one of several senators to raise the concern during the bill's final committee stop. 

Bean said he'll try to address that issue before the final vote. 

“Hopefully we can still bring some of those protections back as the bill moves forward,” he said.

Florida law already prohibits health insurers from using genetic information to determine coverage. The bill would extend that prohibition to life insurance companies.

Bean last year filed a similar bill, but the idea died in both chambers.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, aadan@wjct.org or on Twitter at @abukaradan17