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Senate goes along with House on genetic information

Fernandina Beach senator asked Senate Rules Committee to take up House version

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Changing course, a Senate committee Tuesday approved a proposal that would ban insurance companies from using genetic information in canceling, limiting or denying life-insurance policies or long-term care policies.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, asked members of the Senate Rules Committee to take up the House version of the bill (HB 879) instead of a Senate version (SB 258).

Bean, the sponsor of the Senate bill, had previously worked with the insurance industry to craft a measure that, he said, would protect people’s genetic information from being sold but would have allowed genetic information contained in medical records to be taken into consideration. But Bean asked members of the Rules Committee to take a “bold step” and advance the House measure.

The move drew bipartisan concerns from committee members.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, voted for the bill but said he had concerns about the breadth of the bill and suggested lawmakers consider revisiting the issue in the next five years.

“I would really be much more comfortable if we had some sort of sunset on this,” Lee said.

The bill was introduced this session amid growing concerns surrounding the privacy of the information, given the dramatic growth in genetic-testing products.

The insurance industry opposes the House version.

In a statement to The News Service of Florida, Curt Leonard, regional vice president of the American Council on Life Insurers, called the bill an “intrusive new government regulation that will incentivize dishonesty and deny consumers the freedom to use their personal information as they wish.”