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Law Offers Genetic Testing Protections

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A new law that took effect Saturday protects Americans from being forced by employers or health insurers to undergo genetic testing.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibits employers from requesting genetic testing or using someone's genetic background when making decisions about hiring, firing or promotions, The New York Times reported.

In addition, health insurers and group plans can't require or use a customer's genetic information -- such as a family history of a certain disease -- to deny coverage or set premiums or deductibles.

The law also forbids the common group health plan practice of giving lower premiums or one-time payments to workers who provide their family medical histories when filling out health risk questionnaires.

"The message to employees is they should now be able to get whatever genetic counseling or testing they need and be less fearful about doing so," Peggy Mastroianni, associate legal counsel for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told The Times.

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