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The Medical Information Bureau

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The Medical Information Bureau

The Medical Information Bureau is really more focused on insurance than medical information.

Getty/Steven Hunt

The Medical Information Bureau, or MIB Group, has been pointed to as a potential threat of medical identity theft by many authorities. In researching this article, certain facts have come to your Guide's attention that may ease your mind. The most important being that the information collected by the Medical Information Bureau cannot be used to receive medical care. The information they collect does not represent a threat of identity theft, since it is only useful to insurance companies.

It is important to know what the Medical Information Bureau actually is, and what they do. MIB was formed by the insurance industry to provide a means of verifying information on new applicants. The primary purpose of the MIB is to identify inaccurate and/or omitted information. The Medical Information Bureau is a resource used by life insurance and health insurance companies to determine how much risk is involved with giving you insurance. In the words of David Aronson, Director, Marketing for MIB Group, "MIB collects medical information significant to an individual’s health or longevity that may be of interest to an underwriter."

The basic idea behind insurance is that you pay a small monthly fee for several years or even decades, and the insurance company will pay for (or help pay for) expenses related to something going wrong when it does. With Life Insurance, this is a guaranteed "lose" at some point for the insurance company, for one simple reason… everybody dies. But with Health Insurance it is possible to have a client who pays for insurance every month but never uses it. This is a “low risk” for the insurance company, the sort of people the insurance company prefers to work with. On the other hand, if you have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other illness that may cause you to go to a hospital, you are considered a “high risk” to the insurance company. You may still be able to get insurance, but they will probably charge you more on your monthly premium, since they know the chances are good they will have to pay out.

When you apply for insurance, that companies collect information about your medical conditions from you on your insurance application. This information is verified by means of an "underwriting investigation" which may talk with your healthcare providers (which you authorize when you fill out an application for insurance,) and possibly from public records. This information is “coded” for their computerized records and client privacy. Certain codes can indicate a specific medical condition.

If this insurance company is a “Member” of the medical information bureau, the results of the underwriting investigation will be converted into yet another “proprietary and highly confidential code” which will be reported to the MIB. They will maintain this information for 7 years.

Likewise, an insurance company will check the Medical Information Bureau for information on a new applicant, to make sure that applicant doesn't have an illness in their file that they are not claiming on their application. This may be a simple oversight, or could represent a person trying to get a better insurance rate (or to get insurance after a company says they are uninsurable.) If the MIB has different information in your file (assuming you have one,) they will alert the company that there is a discrepancy.

Practices like this, although obviously necessary from a business perspective, are a big reason for the push toward socialized healthcare in the United States. This is the unfortunate result of using standard business practices in an industry that can literally and directly be the difference between life and death.

The medical information bureau has a page dedicated to medical identity theft which says that there has been no impact on their information. This may seem to be an incredible statement, since medical identity theft revolves around using someone else’s insurance information, which is exactly what the Medical Information Bureau collects. But keep in mind that they do not keep your entire medical file on record, only a few codes that represent your overall general health.

Aronson was clear in an interview that there have seldom been instances where there were errors in an individual's MIB file. They ensure the information they maintain is accurate through rigorous training they provide for their members, who provide the information for their files.

The good news is that the Medical Information Bureau is committed to the philosophy that every consumer is entitled to know the contents of his and her consumer file, and has the right to correct any inaccurate or incomplete information. If you are concerned about what information is in your file, you can request a copy of your MIB file by calling their toll free number – 866-692-6901 (TTY 866-346-3642). At the time of this writing, there is no way to request this information online.

The MIB asks that consumers keep in mind that they will not have a file for you if you have not applied for individually underwritten life, health, or disability income insurance during the previous seven years, that they will ask for personal identification information to help them find a record if it does exist, and that they will verify that information with other consumer reporting agencies.

The important thing to keep in mind about your MIB file, though, is simply this: even in the unlikely event that there is inaccurate information in their records, their information has nothing to do with the medical care you receive. The worst that could conceivably happen would be that your application for new insurance would be denied.

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