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Updated May 3, 2019
GINA, or the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, is a set of policies that surround how an employer or insurance company can and cannot handle its clients’ or employees’ genetic information. It was created to protect people from health insurance discrimination.  The law provides protection for individuals against insurance companies that may want to raise rates or deny coverage based on genetic information. For a full list of GINA’s original policies, please visit one of our other GINA blog posts with the details.
However, there were some changes to GINA in 2016, allowing employers to ask for a client’s genetic information under specific circumstances.  These include participation in wellness programs in which the disclosure of health and genetic information is sometimes required.
A wellness program is an event or set of classes that an employer can offer along with incentives for completion. Wellness programs can include disease management classes, disease prevention classes, fitness programs, and even health assessments.
Under the changes to GINA, a company or health insurance provider can  ask for genetic information from people who attend wellness programs.  However, written consent is required from the employee.  In addition, the employee cannot be penalized for choosing not to participate. Employers can extend the incentive to participate in the wellness program to the employee’s spouse, but cannot offer an incentive if the spouse’s genetic information is collected.

Wellness Program Incentives:

  • If your employer offers an insurance plan that only covers you and not your dependents, also known as a self-only plan, then the incentive offered cannot exceed 30% of the lowest cost plan they offer.
    • For example, if your employer offers self-only coverage for $12,000, you and your family cannot receive more than $4,000 dollars for participation.
  •  If your employer offers no insurance or a larger family-plan, then the incentive cannot exceed 30% of the cost of a standard plan that would be offered to a 40-year-old non-smoker living in that area.  
  • Children are allowed to attend and participate; however, they cannot receive incentives for attending wellness programs.

For more information on GINA, you can visit