Florida becomes first state to protect DNA from life, disability insurers

HB 1189 would expand protections against using genetic data for insurance purposes.

When the month rolls into July at midnight, Florida will be the first state to guarantee DNA privacy for customers’ life, disability, and long-term care insurance.

State and federal law already prevent health insurance providers from demanding customers hand over the results of their DNA tests like 23andMe or AncestryDNA. But the new law (HB 1189) will add those protections for the three additional types of insurance.

House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls spearheaded that effort to patch a prospective problem he envisioned when he was applying for life insurance. While he was on hold on the telephone waiting for assistance, the Palm Harbor Republican said he was struck by advertisements from genetic testing companies encouraging people to buy tests.

“Given the continued rise in popularity of DNA testing kits, it was imperative that we take action, in order to protect Floridians’ DNA data from falling into the hands of an insurer who could potentially weaponize that information against current or prospective policyholders in the form of rate increases or exclusionary policies,” he said in a statement.

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.

Life insurers testified during the regular session that they did not use 3rd party test results but were only interested in those found in the applicant’s medical record. The new law narrows life insurers’ consideration of genetic test results to those that are in the medical record and are an actual diagnosis. Applicants cannot otherwise volunteer or provide genetic test results for consideration in underwriting unless they are in the medical record and are a diagnosis.

The Senate approved the bill 35-3 with Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader and Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Gruters dissenting. Likely with a little help from Sprowls, the measure passed the House unanimously.

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

Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel led the Senate effort and thanked DeSantis for the signature.

“This law will rightfully protect Floridians from violations of privacy, and I am proud of our state for being the first in the nation to protect our citizens from this threat,” Stargel said.  “It is my hope that with this legislation signed into law that it will become a model for the rest of the country as DNA testing becomes more ubiquitous and the need for privacy laws becomes even greater.”

And Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis join in, praising DeSantis and both lawmakers for protecting consumers.

“As DNA testing becomes more popular, we must continue to protect Floridians and their private information. Your genetic code should only be shared with your explicit consent and it should not be used to determine the cost and kinds of insurance coverage available to you.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government 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 r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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