MIB: The Big Brother for Insurance Companies

by Nora Dunn on 6 January 2008 comments
Photo: Dougww

MIB. No, it's not the alien-hunting agency Men In Black; it's the illness-hunting agency Medical Information Bureau.

When you apply for any type of personal insurance (ie: medical, disability, or life), the insurance companies are given permission in the application to access your medical files on the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).

Although it may feel a little like "Big Brother" maintaining a watchful eye, it is intended to be a mechanism in place to prevent insurance fraud cases a deceitful consumer might try to pull.

The MIB is a specialty consumer reporting agency, working for the insurance companies (who are the primary members). Anybody who has applied for insurance in the past and had extra tests ordered after the application was submitted, been refused coverage, offered the policy at higher rates, or had to make a claim, is likely to have a file at MIB. Approximately 20% of consumers are said to have medical records on file.

Members (insurance companies) will send MIB info on any significant medical conditions that are uncovered as part of their underwriting process for your insurance application, as well as cross-check information on your application against any existing files you have.

The good news is that since the file is about you, you have full access to it! Once/year, you can order a free copy of your MIB records, and if you plan to apply for insurance, it is a good idea. It gives you a chance to see what is on your file and dispute any inaccurate information.

For more information, you can call MIB at 1-866-692-6901, visit their site here, or contact them by snail mail (required for disputes) at MIB Inc, PO Box 105, Essex Station, Boston MA, 2112.

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MIB is indeed the Big Brother of the insurance industry. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that MIB is strictly regulated by the Federal government, and that consumers should not assume that they have to allow their personal health records to be shared with MIB, which then has the right to share it with pretty much anyone they like, often with no protection of privacy whatsoever.

Under the Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (“Privacy Rule”) implemented by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), all "individually identifiable health information" held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral, is protected and consumers have a right to demand it remains private.

However, insurance companies routinely request consumers waive their rights to privacy as a condition of providing coverage. If you apply for health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, read your application carefully, you will no doubt find a clause that states the insurance company may share what should be private, confidential medical records with Big Brother, who can then share it with everyone else.

What most consumers don't know is that it is illegal for insurance companies to require you to do this. The privacy rule clearly states that a covered entity (such as an insurance company) may not condition treatment, payment, enrollment, or benefits eligibility on an individual granting an authorization to disclose protected information.

In simple terms, this means an insurance company cannot deny coverage because you refuse to waive your privacy rights and allow the company to share information with Big Brother.

Read the application, find those clauses where they ask you to waive your rights to privacy, cross them out – and if the insurance company insists you give them the right to share your protected information, file a complaint with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or your state attorney general's office.

Congress went to great lengths to draft legislation to protect our privacy, yet the insurance industry routinely asks you to waive those rights. It's time we did something to stop this nonsense.