Florida Genetic Information Bill Advances in House

The legislation is aimed at preventing insurance companies from using customers’ genetic information to change, deny or cancel policies. If passed, the state would be the first to have legislation of this kind.

by Christine Sexton, Orlando Sentinel / January 17, 2020
Shutterstock/isak55

(TNS) — Incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls had little trouble Thursday convincing members of a House health-care panel to approve legislation that would prohibit life-insurance, long-term care insurance and disability-insurance companies from using customers’ genetic information in changing, denying or canceling policies.

Florida would become the first state to have such a law if Sprowls’ proposal is ultimately passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Members of the House Health & Human Services Committee passed Sprowls’ bill (HB 1189) without any debate, and committee Chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, praised Sprowls for introducing the bill.

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

Insurance industry lobbyists, who opposed the measure, sat quietly, agreeing to waive their speaking time.

Curt Leonard, regional vice president for state relations for the American Council of Life Insurers, said his association had expressed concerns on the issue for the past two years.

“We’ve expressed our concerns with Speaker Sprowls and other interested parties on this issue going back to 2018. So there’s no point in repeating the same things over and over again, in the interest of the committee's time,” Leonard said. “That being said, we do share the speaker-designate’s (Sprowls’) concerns about privacy. I think it's a concern for everybody.”

The bill will have to clear the Commerce Committee before it would be ready to go to the full House. Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, is slated to become speaker after the November elections.

In addition to preventing insurers from using the information in making policy decisions, Sprowls’ bill also would block the companies from requiring or soliciting genetic information from applicants.

Sprowls said insurance companies have for years been able to sell policies without having access to the genetic data.

Insurance carriers “have been successful without access to genetic information. They have been able to provide affordable coverage to consumers without genetic information. Insurance is about spreading risk, not guaranteeing the outcomes or rewards to the (carriers). And affordable life, disability, and health insurance should not be available simply to the genetic elite,” Sprowls said.

While Sprowls’ influence looms large in the House, he must convince the Florida Senate to go along. For that, Sprowls said he will look to Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, to spearhead the issue.

Senate President Bill Galvano, though, told The News Service of Florida that he supports a potential compromise on the issue.

Leonard said a compromise would authorize consumers to “use their private information any way they want to. And that might include them wanting to share their genetic science or genetic testing information,” he said. “So we don’t like the idea that consumers will be handcuffed in how they use that information.”

©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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