Democrat pitches individual mandate as key to genetic testing innovation

Genetic testing is a hot topic in Washington as lawmakers and federal regulators determine the essential benefits that health insurers will have to cover in state health insurance exchanges starting in 2014. The law also calls for comparative effectiveness research that weighs the success of drugs and procedures, which has sparked concerns that Medicare could eventually refuse to cover tests that may be useful for sub-segments of the population.

Simultaneously, the Food and Drug Administration is weighing whether it should start regulating direct-to-consumer genetic tests.

Gonzalez said he would likely support having insurers in the exchanges be required to cover genetic tests.

"The thrust of our bill was prevention and wellness," he said. "And this ties right into that." 

Gonzalez also urged his colleagues to support prevention and wellness investments such as genetic testing, even though the Congressional Budget Office typically weighs their cost but not their uncertain benefits. He said genetic tests and personalized medicine could help reduce the nation's $136 billion-a-year cost of adverse drug reactions.

"Members of Congress can show common sense and still make those decisions," Gonzalez said.