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Gov. DeSantis to decide whether to expand DNA protections from insurers

Lawmakers want to protect unwitting Floridians who use services like 23andMe.

Federal and state law already prevents health insurers from using DNA data to influence their coverage. But Florida lawmakers want to expand that privacy to life, disability and long-term care insurance.

With that bill (HB 1189) now on his desk, Gov. Ron DeSantis will offer the final say on whether the Sunshine State will become the first state to bar those insurance companies from using genetic tests like 23andMe for coverage purposes in certain instances. And because incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls spearheaded the effort, the Governor isn’t likely to take out his veto pen.

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.

Insurers have noted that information gleaned from genetic testing, such as a person’s medical predispositions, could be used to lower insurance premiums across the board. But while insurance companies aren’t yet using that data, that would punish genetic losers who would see a premium hike, lawmakers said.

Individuals could still volunteer their genetic information from third-party tests to those insurance companies.

The Senate approved the bill 35-3 with Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader and Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Gruters dissenting. The amended proposal, which outlined that insurers could use genetic information if it came from a medical diagnosis, passed the House unanimously.

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

Sen. Kelli Stargel led the Senate effort.

“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 at the bill’s passage. “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.”

DeSantis has until June 30 to veto the bill before it goes into effect July 1.

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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