How Can Genetic Testing Play Into Workplace Wellness?

Since October is Family History Month, Test Smartly Labs is exploring some of the ways genetic testing can be used by individuals who want to learn more about their family health history and hereditary health risks.

As an employer, it’s key that you’re aware of limitations like the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, that prevent you from accessing the genetic profiles of your employees.

Here’s the lowdown on GINA and what the law means in terms of your workplace wellness program.

Genetic Testing & Workplace Wellness

GINA – Protection for Employees

Passed in 2008 and in effect for all employer health plans started on or after December 7, 2009, GINA prevents insurance companies and employers from requiring genetic testing, restricting health insurance enrollment based on genetic testing, or using any genetic information to determine the cost of health insurance premiums.

Additionally, it prevents employers from making hiring choices based on genetic testing results or other genetic information. This includes any info gleaned from an employees’ genetic testing, genetic testing of their family members, and their family health history.

What Does This Mean for Workplace Wellness?Test Smartly Labs | How Can Genetic Testing Play Into Workplace Wellness?

As a part of your workplace wellness program, you may have a Health Risk Assessment component that you ask employees to conduct prior to health insurance enrollment, or simply as a part of your wellness initiatives. You may think it’s a good idea incentivize these programs to increase participation.

However, GINA prohibits employers or insurance agencies from establishing rewards for providing genetic information, and some Health Risk Assessments do take family history into account. Plus, requiring information on family health history (as in an HRA) before enrollment in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan also violates GINA, as it constitutes requesting genetic information.

How Can I Follow GINA Regulations in My Workplace Wellness Program?

This doesn’t mean you should abandon Health Risk Assessments in your workplace wellness initiatives, though. It’s completely possible to incorporate HRAs while staying GINA-compliant. Here’s how:

  • Review your Health Risk Assessment to see if it requires employees to disclose genetic information. If it does, then you cannot allow completion of the HRA until after health plan enrollment, and cannot offer any participation incentives.
  • If you would like your employees to complete HRAs prior to insurance enrollment (which is ideal since seeing their HRA may help them make better-informed decisions about their insurance, such as which plan and elective options to select), then you must remove all questions involving genetic information, or be clear that answering these questions is not required to receive any incentives.
  • If you need to obtain information about an employees’ health that may include genetic information, you must have knowing, voluntary, written employee authorization. This can be a hard copy or electronic form describing what genetic information is being obtained and why, as well as limitations to accessing this information.
  • If an employees’ genetic information is revealed in other components of the workplace wellness program (either through an individual employees’ or family members’ participation in the program), only that individual and the healthcare professional or genetic counselor providing the services have access to the genetic information. For example, if your employee has a cholesterol test as a part of their biometric screening and has high results, they may elect to have a heart health panel done as well. This could potentially reveal a genetic predisposition to heart disease. Only the employee and health professional would know this information, unless the employee voluntarily disclosed it to the employer.
  • Employees’ genetic information discovered in the course of HRAs will not be disclosed to the employer individually; it is shared as aggregate terms to mask identities.  In other words, you should not receive individualized HRA reports that reveal your employees’ unique health risks — instead, the information is presented to you as a summary report, indicating that certain percentages of the participating workforce are at risk for certain conditions. This will help you better shape your workplace wellness programs and select health plans that provide the correct benefits.

Keep Your Workplace Wellness GINA-Compliant With Test Smartly Labs

Test Smartly Labs is proud to be a nationwide expert in workplace wellness. We can work with your company to ensure all elements of your workplace wellness program, including Health Risk Assessments and Biometric Screenings, are GINA-compliant, as well as in line with other applicable state and federal regulations.

To get started, find your nearest  Test Smartly Labs location today!


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