How Insurance Companies Predict When You’ll Die – Personal Finance Article

The article “How Insurance Companies Predict When You’ll Die” by Joel S. Winston was published on June 18, 2014 by The article also appeared on Yahoo Finance and Money.

“How Insurance Companies Predict When You’ll Die”

Life insurance is arguably the most disturbing financial product a law-abiding citizen can buy. After all, life insurance is essentially an investment on your life that pays off only when you die.

If someone is buying a car, it would be normal for them to consider various features like vehicle safety and gas mileage. Comparatively speaking, someone shopping for life insurance must confront the fragility of his own existence. The mental calculus of this purchase is unnerving, “When am I going to die? What might be the cause of my death? And, how much is my life worth?”

On the other side of the negotiating table, the insurance company needs to calculate the probability of your death before it will invest in your life. However, insurers have smartly recognized that asking customers to help guess their own time and manner of death is an awkward way to sell insurance policies. As a courtesy, life insurance companies will predict your death for you. The professional Las Vegas oddsmakers who take bets for sports games call it “setting the spread.” Life insurance companies call the process “underwriting.”

Estimating Your Demise

Life insurers require massive amounts of information to profitably “underwrite” potential customers, thereby separating risky people (i.e., sick or likely to become sick) from desirable people (i.e., healthy and likely to remain healthy). To feed this insatiable appetite for intelligence, life insurers have built the most sophisticated software tools and deepest pools of consumer data on the planet.

Actually, life insurers have been pioneers in the field of big data and personal analytics for more than 100 years. The Medical Information Bureau Inc. (also known as MIB Inc. and MIB Group Inc.) was founded in 1902 and is America’s oldest and longest continuously operating credit reporting agency. Accessing 100 million records and growing weekly, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) owns and monetizes, “North America’s largest database of medical conditions on insurance applicants. [Including] diagnosed medical conditions from attending physicians, lab test results, qualified physical exams, self-admitted medical conditions.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns Americans that, in addition to medical conditions, data collected and reported by MIB may include an individual’s credit history, driving records, criminal activity, tobacco usage, drinking habits, participation in hazardous sports and “other” data. Under questioning by a Senate Banking Committee in the 1970s, MIB’s former executive director and general counsel Joseph C. Wilberding revealed that the “other” category in MIB files has included information on “sexual deviation” (i.e., homosexuality, effeminate behaviors, bachelorhood, HIV acquisition, and a woman’s questionable “moral character” for giving birth out of wedlock), drug addiction, alcoholism and such hazardous hobbies as auto racing and flying.

Jonathan W. Sager, MIB’s executive vice president, would not comment directly on Wilberding’s testimony. However, he said: “Let me assure you that MIB does not have codes for ‘homosexuality, effeminate behaviors, bachelorhood, HIV acquisition, and a woman’s questionable ‘moral character’ for giving birth out of wedlock.'” (more…)

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The Medical Information Bureau’s History of Sexual Curiosity

The Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB Inc.) has been the subject of ongoing controversy since the 1970′s, when its existence first became generally known. At the root of the controversy is the organization’s penchant for secrecy. For many years, insurance agencies consulted MIB without telling applicants about the files. MIB even had an unlisted phone number. Interestingly, the Medical Information Bureau Inc. also has an extensive history of sexual curiosity about Americans.

Although the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB, Inc.) owns the largest database of reported medical information in North America, MIB collects more than just medical information. Personal habits, occupations, and lifestyle choices are very important to the insurance company members of the Medical Information Bureau.

For example, MIB has codes that indicate a dangerous lifestyle, including, “adverse driving records, hazardous sports, aviation activity, or homosexual lifestyle”. These codes map to similar question on most life insurance forms or physician questionnaires.

In fact, what the Medical Information Bureau keeps in its computers is information about people. Specifically, every time you report a significant medical condition on an insurance application—anything from heart problems to skin cancer—the insurance company can report that condition to the MIB. The next time you apply for insurance, your “new” insurance company will pull your MIB file and find out what you previously reported.

But, MIB’s files don’t contain your exact medical records, test results, or X-rays. Instead, each person’s file contains one or more codes that stand for a particular medical condition that has been reported for that person. Within the MIB database, medical conditions are indicated through the use of more than 200 codes; commonly reported conditions include height and weight, blood pressure, EKG readings, and lab tests. There are codes that signify diabetes, heart problems, and gender. Some codes are very detailed. For example, researchers found that MIB had five separate codes for HIV / AIDS acquisition (presumptively to identify whether the source of infection was medical or sexual).


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Download or Print a Free MIB Report Request Sample Form

The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides every consumer with the right to request a free annual medical report file disclosure from the Medical Information Bureau (MIB, Inc.) and it’s membership of 500 insurance companies.

Under consent agreements with the Federal Trade Commission in 1983 and 1995, “the MIB, Inc., and all insurance companies who are members of the MIB, will abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

To request a copy of your free MIB report, you should complete ONE of the following options:

Toll-Free Telephone – “Streamlined Request”

(1) Call the MIB, Inc. toll-free telephone number at 1-866-692-6901 to make your request. (Note – The MIB “Voice Cue” is available Monday – Friday, 6AM -12AM ET, closed on holidays. According to the MIB phone disclosure website, “MIB’s disclosure process requires you to provide your personal identification information to assist us in locating your MIB Consumer File, should one exist. The ID information you supply will be validated with other consumer reporting agencies.”  As an additional warning, please be aware that the MIB voicemail system records and retains your personal information and voice imprint. If you are suspected of fraud, MIB reserves the right to use this recording as evidence against you.)

Written Request by Mail

(2) Download or Print this free MIB disclosure request form (PDF link). Then mail the completed and signed form to “MIB, Inc. 50 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 400, Braintree, MA 02184” to make your request. (Note – MIB, Inc. has taken the position that the FCRA does not require it to comply with a consumers’ express written request for free annual disclosure of their MIB file. As a warning to consumers, MIB publicly states, “Because a consumer’s request for free annual disclosure is supposed to be submitted via the Streamlined Process [1-866-692-6901] only, MIB reserves the right to decline a consumer’s request for free annual disclosure that is made using this form [by mail]. In such an event, MIB may instruct the consumer to use MIB’s Streamlined Process [1-866-692-6901]. Alternatively, MIB may also process a consumer’s request for free annual disclosure using this form if the consumer declines to use MIB’s Streamlined Process, but agrees to pay the fee [$10.50] that is allowed by law.” It is has yet to be determined whether MIB’s refusal to honor the valid, written requests of consumers is legal or illegal under federal and state law.) Online Submission Form

(3) Complete and submit the online request form located on the MIB website. (Note – When you submit your information online, it may be validated by an unnamed third-party consumer reporting agency. According to the Website Privacy Policy for Consumer File Requests – “If you are visiting MIB’s website to request disclosure of your MIB Consumer File (if any) or to dispute its contents, MIB will collect personal information from you. This information will be securely collected and maintained by MIB and will be used solely to process your request. Specifically, the personal information that you provide to MIB will be used to verify your identity, to conduct an accurate search of MIB’s databases and to confirm that the search results (if any) actually relate to you.  MIB does not sell, share, transfer, lease or otherwise disclose the personal information that you provide to any third-parties, except that MIB will validate the information you provide with other consumer reporting agencies to confirm your identity.“)

Upon receipt and validation of your request, the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. must provide disclosure to you by postal mail within 15 business days. If MIB does not have a “consumer file” on you, the law requires MIB to provide a “no record” letter explaining that a record does not exist.

An “MIB consumer file” may include: (1) Any medical and personal information that MIB maintains in its database about you, if any, in the form of translated MIB codes; and (2) the name(s) of the MIB member insurance companies, if any, that: (A) reported information to MIB, along with the dates such information was reported; (B) received a copy of your MIB Consumer File during the three (3) year period preceding your request for disclosure and the dates the companies received your file; and, (C) made an inquiry to MIB about you within the past two (2) years, along with the dates of such inquiries.

Upon review of the contents of your MIB consumer file disclosure, if you believe that any information is incomplete or inaccurate, you should contact the MIB, Inc. directly to initiate a dispute. (The mailing address is “MIB, Inc. 50 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 400, Braintree, MA 02184”) If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (a specialty consumer reporting agency), the MIB must investigate your claim (unless the dispute is “frivolous”). See for an explanation of dispute procedures.

Inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 45 days. However, the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (a specialty consumer reporting agency), may continue to report information it has verified as accurate. For all types of consumer file information, the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (a specialty consumer reporting agency), may not report negative information that is more than seven years old.

As a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency, MIB Inc. “must provide a toll-free number that is published in every telephone directory in which a number for the company appears, and is clearly and prominently posted on the company’s website. In addition, federal law requires the company to have clear and easy instructions for consumers to get these reports, and adequate staff in place or means to deal with consumers’ requests.” If the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB), or any other specialty consumer reporting agency, violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) with respect to your inforamtion, you may be able to file a lawsuit seeking damages in state or federal court.

The Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB), a Delaware corporation, is the world’s largest insurance reporting agency and represents approximately 500 member insurance companies.  “The Medical Information Bureau (a/k/a, MIB Group, Inc., a/k/a, MIB, Inc., a/k/a, MIB Solutions, Inc.) collects and furnishes information on consumers to all Medical Information Bureau (MIB) member corporations for use in the insurance underwriting process.”

In addition to an individual’s credit history, data collected by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) may include “medical conditions, driving records, criminal activity, drug use, participation in hazardous sports, and personal or family genetic history, among other facts.”  Under Federal law, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) is a “consumer-reporting agency” and is required by law to provide a medical report to consumers every 12 months.

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