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Reform Jewish Leader Hails Senate Passage of Genetic Nondiscrimination Legislation, Urges Quick House Passage

Feldman: Scientists continue to make remarkable advances in the treatment of illness-and today's Senate passage of genetic nondiscrimination legislation will ensure that all Americans are free to lead longer, healthier lives without fear of genetic discrimination.


Contact: Alexis Rice 202.387.2800
Deena Fox 212.650.4162

NEW YORK, October 14, 2003 - In response to today's Senate passage of the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Today's Senate passage of legislation that will ban genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment is an important step toward comprehensive protection of private health information. The bill would prohibit group health plans and insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on an individual's genetic information, and from requiring genetic testing. It would also prohibit health plans from collecting, using or disclosing genetic information for purposes such as underwriting, eligibility and premium rating. At the same time, employers would be barred from using genetic information in making employment-related decisions.

In this information age, the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act is essential to ensure that the dissemination of personal information is properly regulated. For this reason, we call on the House to quickly pass companion legislation. 220 bipartisan House members have already shown their support for genetic non-discrimination legislation (H.R. 1910, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act).

The Jewish tradition teaches that a single human life is of infinite value and that one has an obligation to obtain health care when necessary. As a result, the Reform Jewish Movement has long supported the right of all individuals to comprehensive health coverage. Yet new life-saving health care technologies can also be used to discriminate against patients, such as those whose genetic history indicates the potential for future health problems. Individuals may become wary of pursuing needed health care services for fear of discrimination by health plans or employers. It is for this reason that we endorse this bill, which seeks to protect individuals from the potential of genetic discrimination.

With today's Senate action, we now turn our attention to the House of Representatives. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis call on the House of Representatives leadership to schedule a vote on S. 1053 as quickly as possible. Passage of this legislation will ensure that no woman, man, or child will have to choose between quality health care and keeping a job or obtaining health insurance. Scientists continue to make remarkable advances in the treatment of illness-and today's Senate passage of genetic nondiscrimination legislation will ensure that all Americans are free to lead longer, healthier lives without fear of genetic discrimination.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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