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Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill

• mercurynews.com By Lena H. Sun

Employers, in general, don't have that power under existing federal laws that protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. But a bill passed Wednesday by a House committee would allow employers to get around that if the information is collected as part of workplace wellness programs.

Workplace wellness programs — which offer workers a variety of carrots and sticks to monitor and improve their health, such as lowering cholesterol — have become increasingly popular among companies. Some offer discounts on health insurance to employees who complete health-risk assessments. Others might charge people more for smoking.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are allowed to discount health insurance premiums by up to 30 percent — and in some cases 50 percent — for employees who voluntarily participate in a wellness program.

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