Florida passes bill to license genetic counselors

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In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill requiring genetic counselors to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health. The law, known as the Genetic Counseling Workforce Act, became effective on July 1. 

“Before licensure, anybody could call themselves a genetic counselor. Licensure is a move that will help protect the public.”

“Before licensure, anybody could call themselves a genetic counselor,” explained Dr. Deborah Cragun, an assistant professor in the USF College of Public Health and director of the college’s genetic counseling graduate program who helped petition the legislature to advance the licensure bill. “But now, only those who are licensed, have passed the board exam and kept up with their continuing education can legally call themselves genetic counselors,” she said. “Licensure is a move that will help protect the public.”

The Florida Association of Genetic Counselors (FLAGC) reports that 29 states now require genetic counselors to be licensed. Another 18 states plan to propose licensing bills in upcoming legislative sessions.

Licensure, says Cragun and other experts in the field, will be a boon to the profession and the public.

The FLAGC notes that in 2019, Florida reported just one genetic counselor for every 500,000 individuals living in the state, one of the lowest genetic counselor-to-patient ratios in the country. Why such a low number? Part of the reason has been a lack of licensure.

According to Cragun, some hospital systems have strict policies requiring that providers be licensed by the state. Sometimes they contracted with out-of-state genetic counseling companies to provide services to their patients. Additionally, without licensure, genetic counselors had a hard time getting insurance reimbursement for their services, and that limited who within the state would hire them.

“Licensure will help grow the profession,” Cragun said. “Now that we have licensure and the capacity to bill, we expect more genetic counselors to get hired. Licensure is a recognition that genetic counselors have specialized training and are qualified to offer genetic testing, interpret the results and provide guidance and support to those with genetic conditions.”

To learn more about the USF genetic counseling program and how to become a genetic counselor, click here for information on a virtual open house conducted in conjunction with the FLGAC. The event will be held Thursday, Oct. 7, beginning at 5 p.m.

Related media: COPH and Moffitt Cancer Center take steps to diversify the field of genetic counseling

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health