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  • Writer's pictureThomas Piccolo

House Health Panel Gives Chris Sprowls' DNA Protection Bill First Approval

Legislation to protect Floridians’ genetic data from insurance companies passed it first hurdle Thursday with a unanimous House panel vote.

With the increasing popularity of services like 23andMe and Ancestry that provide customers with access to their ethnic history and DNA insights, a group of lawmakers want to expand the protections against insurers utilizing that information.

The proposal (HB 1189/SB 1564) would prohibit life, disability and long-term care insurers from canceling, limiting or denying coverage or charging different premiums for Florida customers based on such data. Federal and state law already prevents health insurance companies from doing so.

Insurance companies could still use medical diagnoses to plan their coverage.

House Speaker-designate and Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls and Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel filed their bills last week. Sprowls indicated it would be one of his legislative priorities this Session.

And Sprowls said life and long-term care insurance companies haven’t been shy about wanting customer’s information.

“Insurance is about spreading risk, not guaranteeing the outcomes or rewards to the characters,” he said. “And affordable life, disability and health insurance should not be available simply to the genetic elite.”

The House Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues, gave its approval to HB 1189. Its next and last House committee stop will be the Commerce Committee while SB 1564’s first stop is in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

“I think our privacy is important, and I think it’s equally important to be a visionary, to look forward, and I’m glad Florida’s going to be the state that leads the way on this issue,” Rodrigues said.

The Florida Association of Genetic Counselors, AARP and three health care centers signaled their support during the meeting. But the Florida Insurance Council, the American Council of Life Insurers and the James Madison Institute opposed the bill.

One group backing the measure, Protecting Our DNA, launched a minute-long ad Thursday saying it would protect Floridians’ DNA, privacy and insurance plans. The group is sponsored by Floridians for Economic Freedom, a political committee chaired by Sprowls.

But insurance companies oppose the proposal and argue customers know more about themselves, potentially cheating insurers out of accurate rates. Charging individuals predisposed to health problems at the average rate raises everyone’s price of coverage, they say.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), under Commissioner David Altmaier, regulates insurers including life, health and long-term care insurers.

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