The House Comes Through

The other day, I was, as usual, listening to NPR, and somebody mentioned something off-hand that caught my attention. This February, a committee of the United States House of Representatives approved a bill that would ban any kind of discrimination based on genetics. This, to me, is a step in the right direction, and sets back what looked like a truly terrible misuse of science.

Here’s the problem: with genetic screening for common diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and cystic fibrosis becoming cheaper, more accurate, and more widespread, the insurance companies are faced with a veritable gold mine: they can insure only people who are at little or no risk of getting any of these diseases, so that less of “their” profits go towards treating people. This is clearly an ethical dilemma. Just because these people are stricken with diseases doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to medical care, and the right to live the most normal lives they can. Many have argued that something must be done about the steadily increasing possibility of such discrimination.

Enter the United States government. I never thought I’d be able to use that phrase: back when the Republicans controlled the Congress, they never passed the bills I wanted to see passed, and ever since the Democrats took over, it doesn’t seem they’ve passed much of anything. Well, assuming this bill passes, they’re coming through at last! Of course, given the Congress’s tendency to obsess about a few high-profile issues to the exclusion of all others, my hope may be premature…