In a 95-0 vote, the U.S. Senate passed a bill Thursday to protect the jobs and health insurance of people who learn through genetic testing that they may be susceptible to serious diseases.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which now goes back the House of Representatives, forbids employers from using genetic information in the hiring, firing or promotion of workers and bars health insurance companies from using genetic information to set premiums or determine eligibility, the Associated Press reported.
"For the first time we act to prevent discrimination before it has taken firm hold and that's why this legislation is unique and groundbreaking," said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), one of the sponsors of the bill.
She noted there are more than 1,100 genetic tests currently available but they're "absolutely useless" if people don't use them or take part in clinical trials because they're worried about discrimination.
The bill, which could be approved by the House early next week, is supported by the White House, the AP reported.