Tallahassee, FL - Florida lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would block life insurers and long-term care insurers from using genetic information to price policies, making Florida the first state to ban the use of the information.
Bill sponsor and incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, called the unanimous House vote a “major victory for Floridians” and predicted that other states will follow.
“This legislation will also undoubtedly make Florida a model for the rest of the nation for ensuring individuals’ genetic information is kept private and that it cannot be used against them by any category of insurers,” Sprowls said in a prepared statement.
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.
The Senate voted 35-3 on Wednesday to approve the bill after adding an amendment that clarified insurers could take into consideration diagnoses in customers’ medical records, even if the diagnoses were based on genetic information. Sprowls told The News Service of Florida that the amendment “was a restatement of what the bill already allowed.”
The bill now will go to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who can either veto it, allow it to become law without his signature or sign it into law.
In addition to precluding the companies from using genetic information to price policies, the bill would prevent insurers from using the information in making policy decisions. Sprowls’ bill also would block the companies from requiring or soliciting genetic information from applicants. The bill also would prevent the use of genetic information by disability insurers.
Senate sponsor Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, 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.”
The American Council of Life Insurers, which had opposed the proposal, did not comment on the bill’s final passage. Sprowls is slated to become House speaker after the November elections.