Could Bad Genes Put a Cramp on Your Career?

  • Share
  • Read Later
On Tuesday, President Clinton issued an executive order that bans federal agencies from using genetic records to discriminate against employees and job applicants. While the order protects 2 million federal jobs, Clinton's bigger task is to offer similar protections in the private sector. Labor groups fear that employers will soon have quick access to genetic information and could use this in hiring decisions, by considering an applicant's probable future health costs. To allay these fears, Clinton endorsed legislation pending on the floors of both houses of Congress to outlaw such practices.

The biggest opponent is likely to be insurance companies. During his sprawling State of the Union treatise, Clinton acknowledged the advances being made on the Genome Project, but took time to note that "federal tax dollars have funded much of this research". Interpretation: This is public domain, to be used in the public interest. A measure to prevent insurance companies from testing consumers for genetic predispositions is one of the aspects of Clinton's Patients' Bill of Rights most heavily opposed by the insurance industry. Providers argue that it will give consumers an unfair edge if they know their genetic predispositions and the insurers don't. But health insurance firms have become a favorite foe on Capital Hill in recent years, and as the horse trading over Clinton's budget shapes up, they probably aren't high on legislators' interest list.