Most consumers are well aware of credit reporting agencies. They keep track of how well we pay our bills and manage our credit so lenders can decide whether to loan us the money we need for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other credit devices.
But most consumer-patients are surprised to learn of the existence of a parallel reporting agency for the health industry, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) . Originally established in 1902, it serves the information needs of almost 500 health and life insurance companies in North America that seek health, credit and other information about those consumer-patients who request to be insured.
The purpose behind the MIB is to provide background information to its insurance company members so they can determine who they will accept for insurance, or who they will reject. According to the MIB, they collect information on only 15 to 20 percent of people who have applied for individual health or life insurance policies.
The MIB states its mission as "detecting and deterring fraud that may occur in the course of obtaining life, health, disability income, critical illness, and long-term care insurance." Those savings, the MIB claims, help to lower premiums to insurance-buying consumers.
Considered by the government to be a consumer reporting agency, its services must adhere to the US Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. For consumer-patients, this means it must follow the same disclosure rules as the credit reporting agencies we are more familiar with. That means you are able to obtain copies of any reports they hold on you, and there is a procedure for disputing errors.
What Information does the MIB Collect?
- Credit information
- Medical conditions
- Medical tests and results
- Habits such as smoking, overeating, gambling, drugs
- Hazardous avocations and hobbies
- Motor vehicle reports (poor driving history and accidents)
The information collected by the MIB stays on file for seven years. If any of its members have requested your file in the previous 12 months, that will be listed with your records.
Why Do MIB Members Need this Information?
The reason this information is collected is specifically to help its member companies make decisions about who will live a long and healthy life.
Life, disability, long-term care insurance and other health-related companies are only interested in insuring people who will outlive the company's need to pay them. Their interest is in making money, so they want to insure only those people who will pay premiums that over the long term will eventually add up to more than the insurance company has to pay out on their behalf.
The information collected by the MIB helps the insurance companies decide which applicants will likely live long enough to help the company make its profits.
Who Has Access to MIB Collected Information?
- Employees of its members may access your personal information to help them in their underwriting decision-making. In order to gain access, they must get your signature.
- You have access to your MIB report once each year at no cost to you. You must call the MIB at (866) 692-6901 (TTY (866) 346-3642 for hearing impaired.
- The MIB states specifically that "Employers, vendors, and non-Members do not have access to MIB files."
Why is This Important to Patients?
Like other medical records, patients need to be aware this organization exists to influence their ability to obtain the insurance they may wish to acquire.
If you think you will be purchasing any form of life, disability, long-term or other health-related insurance within the next few years, plan to obtain any MIB records currently on file in order to review them for accuracy.