Why genetic testing could be coming to a workplace near you
- Companies such as Aetna, Visa, Slack Technologies, and Instacart are starting to offer genetic testing to employees for genetic mutations correlated with breast and ovarian cancer. Other firms are launching similar initiatives targeting genetic markers associated with metabolism, weight gain, and overeating.
- Conditions tied to obesity, including type 2 diabetes, cost more than $12,000 per worker per year, according to a recent survey from Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.
- For example, Jackson Laboratory, a genetics research center, partnered with Newtopia Inc. to create a genetics-based wellness program for its employees.
Genetic testing has become attractive to employers as a way to help their workforce be more healthy and save money in the process. It's not just a question of finding out whether a patient has a mutated DRD2 gene (linked to overeating) or a modified FTO body fat gene, but also supporting behavioral modification among employees. Early pilots have shown some success.
This program is attractive for how it empowers individuals with genetic information and potentially saves on healthcare costs down the road. But, privacy remains a concern. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has proposed rules permitting individuals to opt out of testing—and to ensure the results of genetic testing don't lead to discrimination.