The New York Times reports that the cost of sequencing an individual genome will soon be less than $1,000. That’s not nothing, but given what most health care costs, it’s not much. And it means that an individual mandate — or something much like it — is inevitable.
In 2008, Congress overwhelmingly passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Ron Paul was the lone dissenter. The legislation bars insurers from denying coverage or raising premiums on individuals who show a genetic predisposition toward particular diseases. And in doing, it armed a time bomb beneath the health-care industry.
At the moment, our understanding of the genome remains relatively crude, and our ability to predict future health risks based off of genomic sequencing is limited. But we’re getting better at it. For instance, women in families with a high rate of breast and ovarian cancer can have themselves tested for alterations in the BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes. If they test positive, it means their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer is significantly higher.
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