On Thursday, October 1, 2009, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury issued new regulations implementing Title I of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”). GINA is effective for plan years beginning after May 21, 2009 (January 1, 2010 for calendar year plans).

GINA expands on the genetic information protections included in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). Under GINA and these final regulations, group health plans cannot (1) increase premiums for the group based on the results of one enrollee’s genetic information, (2) deny enrollment, (3) impose preexisting condition exclusions, or (4) do any other underwriting based on genetic information. Additionally, group health plans and issuers cannot request, require or buy genetic information for underwriting purposes and are prohibited from asking individuals to undergo any genetic testing.

Besides ensuring that genetic information is not used adversely in determining health care coverage, the protections for genetic information are also designed to encourage individuals to participate in genetic testing to better identify and prevent certain illnesses. According to Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, “Today’s genetic technologies yield data that are vital to helping Americans make personal, medical decisions. It is essential that we protect this information and ensure it is not misused by health plans or insurers.”