Every day, I receive something in my inbox about GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) compliance. Literally. Every day. So, I know that if I’m that inundated, two things are true: This is important and you’re just as inundated as I am.

That said, I’ll pass along a little of what I’ve found out about how you can survive GINA.

First of all, the clock is ticking. Signed into law last year with the intention to prevent you from discriminating against employees based on genetic tests and information, GINA goes into effect in less than a month (Nov. 21).

Second, you should plan for a few changes in the office décor, since GINA requires employers to obtain and post notices informing covered individuals of their rights under the new law. Failure to display the notices (and all other required state and federal posters) can lead to fines of up to $17,000.

And speaking of those new individual rights, here’s some bona fide no-nos under GINA:

* Give a premium break to employees who complete a health risk assessment pre-enrollment, or waive annual deductibles for workers who complete an HRA post-enrollment – if said HRA includes questions about workers’ family medical history.
* Ask employees to complete a pre-enrollment HRA at all without offering a reward. But again, the trigger is questions pertaining to family medical history. So, just ask a lot of questions about family medical history, and you can escape the rewards clause.
* Ask workers to complete an HRA that asks: “Is there anything else relevant to your health that you would like us to know or discuss with you?” but leaves the question open-ended for employees to provide answers that divulge family medical history.
* Base disease management program eligibility on HRA answers that have to do with family medical history. So, if you know from Joe’s HRA answers that his dad, grandfather and uncle had heart attacks before age 50, you can’t put Joe into your disease management program – even though he’s 45.

To recap, if you ask workers to complete a health risk assessment you gotta sweeten the deal with cash and prizes. Such deal-sweetening cannot include premium reductions or a deductible waiver. So, iPods – yes; actually lowering employees’ health care expenses – no. Also, if you ask workers to complete an HRA with fun giveaways as an incentive, you can’t use their answers to put workers into disease management programs that might actually make them healthier. Got it? Yeah, sounds silly to me, too.

So, what can you do? According to the IRS, this stuff:

* Cover mammograms for younger women if they are genetically predisposed to breast cancer, if you already cover the screenings for women over 40.
* Offer two, separate HRAs: one with a reward but without family medical questions, and one without a reward that asks all the family medical questions you like.
* Waive plan deductible for individuals who complete HRAs with the “Anything else you want to tell us?” question, so long as you say explicitly that workers should not include genetic or family medical history information.

I hope that helps some. However, I should remind you that I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Although I crave your comments and questions, if you have queries on this, you’d be much better served directing them here.

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