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On May 21, 2008, President Obama signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Title II of GINA prohibits the use of “genetic information” (i.e., information about an individual’s genetic tests, genetic tests of a family member, and family medical history) in employment, prohibits the intentional acquisition of genetic information about applicants and employees, and imposes strict confidentiality requirements.
There is an exception, however, which permits employers to acquire genetic information which is requested as part of a “voluntary” wellness program. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is expected to elaborate on the definition of “voluntary” in its final regulations, which it will issue before November 21, 2009, the date Title II of GINA becomes effective.
Title II of GINA and the EEOC’s accompanying regulations could therefore provide yet another legal hurdle for employers who wish to implement corporate wellness programs.
For additional background information on Title II of GINA, see http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda_geneticinfo.html. The EEOC’s proposed regulations can also be found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-4221.htm.
With health care costs skyrocketing, more employers are turning to wellness programs in an effort to alleviate those costs attributable to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
It is important, however, that employers consult legal counsel when designing and implementing wellness programs to help stay in compliance with the myriad of applicable legal requirements.
Governor Paterson Expands COBRA in New York
Compliance Assistance New York State Insurance Law was recently amended to extend the period for employees who lose their jobs to continue their health insurance for up to 36 months.
This new law applies to all New York group insurance policies (regardless of employer size) which are issued, renewed, modified, altered, or amended after July 1, 2009. This means that calendar year renewals will be subject to these New York state requirements beginning January 1, 2010. New York “mini-COBRA” notices and federal COBRA notices should be amended accordingly. For more information, including “Frequently Asked Questions,” visit http://www.ins.state.ny.us/cobra/cobra_ext_36.htm.