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Chris Sprowls’ DNA protection bill heads to Ron DeSantis

HB 1189 would limit how insurance companies can use genetic data.

Lawmakers approved a bill Thursday preventing insurance companies from using or soliciting Floridians’ genetic information.

That measure (HB 1189), a priority of Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls, returned to the House Thursday after Senators approved an amendment outlining that insurers can only use genetic information if it’s part of a medical diagnosis.

The bill, which now awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ approval, would make Florida the first and only state to bar life, disability and long-term care insurance companies from using genetic tests like 23andMe for coverage purposes. Sprowls called the measure an opportunity to show the nation how DNA data should be treated.

“This amendment, coupled with the underlying bill, will make Florida the leader in the nation in protecting our residents and our citizens’ genetic information,” he said.

Federal law already prevents health insurers from using genetic information in underwriting policies and in setting premiums. But the prohibition doesn’t apply to life insurance or long-term care coverage, which Sprowls has described as a “massive loophole.”

Sprowls said he discovered the issue in December 2017 when he was applying for life insurance. While he was on hold on the telephone waiting for assistance, he said he was struck by commercials from companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA encouraging people to buy genetic tests.

Stargel said the measure protects Floridians who use genetic testing kits.

“While countless Floridians have used DNA testing kits to learn more about their background or identify potential health risks, they didn’t sign up in order for insurers to access this personal information and then base their policies on it,” Stargel said in a prepared statement.  “We are elected to protect Floridians, and this good public policy protects them from insurers invading their private personal DNA data and using it against them.”

Insurers have noted that information gleaned from genetic testing could be used by lower insurance premiums. But privacy concerns are winning the day this Session after Sen. Aaron Bean‘s bill didn’t make it to the floor last year.

Dr. Robert Gleeson, a medical consultant for the American Council of Life Insurers, has opposed the bill in past years.

DNA-testing companies could not hand genetic information to insurers without the customer’s consent and insurers could not require prospective customers take a genetic test.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved the bill 35-3 with Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader and Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Gruters dissenting. The amended proposal passed the House unanimously Thursday.

In January, the House passed the original bill, which banned insurance companies from using genetic data all together, with Republican Rep. Mike Hill casting the lone nay.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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