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Snowballing Opposition to Business Roundtable’s Genetic Testing Bill

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

Sharon Begley at STATNews broke this wide open. The New York Times followed quickly, with the Washington Post, and New York Magazine also chiming in, More on the way.

If you didn’t see it last time (or click through on a link above), this bill would allow employers to run genetic tests on their employees, as part of wellness programs, and fine employees who don’t submit.

Here is an irony. Though an idea like this would appear to have their fingerprints all over it, the usual suspects at the Health Enhancement Research Organization’s board — Ron Goetzel, Seth Serxner, Paul Terry — had nothing to do with this. I don’t know if that’s because they didn’t think of it, or because none of their board members can make any money off it. Or perhaps it was the reaction to their  “fat tax” idea last year.  One way or another, this is the first horrible wellness idea ever that does not have their fingerprints on it. So kudos to them for not being as unethical, greedy and misanthropic as everybody assumed they were!

Quite the contrary, this idea clearly originates with the Business Roundtable. How do I know?

First, they sponsored legislation with the same exact title in the last session, as a way to pressure the Obama Administration into letting them do administratively exactly what they are trying to do legislatively now.  (Yes, I know lobbying groups don’t “sponsor” legislation, at least in the narrowest sense. However, they own most of the legislators on the relevant committees, so it’s easy to get them to do their bidding. Now just the GOP, but it used to be both parties, back when Democrats mattered.) The difference is, this time they have enough sense to keep a low profile, given the criticism they got last time around.

Second, in the past they have been willing to go to the mat over wellness. Allowing corporations more control over employees is one of their agendas. Saving corporations money is another one. And this genetic testing provision would save tons. No, not by reducing healthcare spending, obviously.  Rather, it would be by increasing forfeitures. The worse the program, the more employees will refuse to submit. And the more employees who don’t participate, the greater the forfeitures.

We are talking a lot of money here. Wellness is roughly an $8-billion industry. Forfeitures? Well, figure an average of $600 in penalties/foregone incentives, about 50% non-participation, and about 70,000,000 employees in wellness programs. That makes forfeitures a $21-billion industry. (Many large corporations view forfeitures as a negative, of course. But the economics for others, for outcomes-based programs, are compelling.)

Hopefully this will all be mooted pretty soon, as opposition is overwhelming to this idea, an idea so stupid that even HERO doesn’t support it.




  1. Mitch Collins says:

    A Nazi’s dream……..


  2. Melissa says:

    Thanks to folks like you and Sharon, perhaps workers can remain focused on working.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      I have a sense we’re going to win this one…I’ll predict this bill never reaches the President’s desk.


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