Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi today released the following statement in support of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which the House passed this afternoon by an overwhelming 414 to 1 vote. The landmark bill, which would prohibit health insurance companies and employers from discriminating against people on the basis of genetic test results, now goes to the President's desk for his signature. Below are the Speaker's remarks, which will be inserted into the Congressional Record:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
“I would like to thank Congresswoman Louise Slaughter for her outstanding leadership on this issue. For 13 years, she has worked to pass this bill to protect Americans from genetic discrimination. She's both the powerful chair of the Rules Committee, and a microbiologist, so she knows what she is talking about.
“The sequencing of the human genetic code is one of the great scientific accomplishments in the history of the world. It has the potential to treat and prevent disease. It is evidence of science's almost-biblical power to heal.
“But with this scientific breakthrough comes a responsibility to protect Americans from the misuse of their genetic information. Today, the Congress will begin to fulfill that responsibility by passing this legislation.
“This legislation prevents health insurers from adverse coverage or pricing decisions based on a person's genetic predisposition toward a disease. It ensures an employer cannot make adverse employment decisions based on what is in a person's genetic code. It also makes it illegal for an insurer or employer to request or demand a gene test.
“Because of this legislation, Americans will be free to undergo genetic testing for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's, without fearing for their job or health insurance. There is life-saving information in those tests. And for scientists, there is information that allows for huge breakthroughs.
“This legislation is supported by the vast majority of the American people, 93 percent of whom do not want employers to have access to their genetic information.
“This is such good policy that this legislation is supported by more than 500 organizations, including a broad coalition of civil rights and religious organizations. Health advocacy groups ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the March of Dimes to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation have endorsed it.
“In the Congress, it has broad bipartisan support. It also has the support of the President.
“Mr. Speaker, let us not wait another day to pass this legislation so it can move to the President's desk for his signature and become law.”