How to See the Info Consumer Reporting Agencies Have Collected on You

In the article “How to See the Info Consumer Reporting Agencies Have Collected on You”, the website Lifehacker.com featured information from AnnualMedicalReport.com.

As Lifehacker.com explains, “When you apply for a job, auto insurance, life insurance, a bank account, or even set up your electric bill, chances are the company you’re talking to will go talk to some other companies, called consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), to find out your previous history. Under law, you have a right to see what’s in these reports.”

You’re probably familiar with the big three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, but many other agencies collect your information for the purposes of selling reports to landlords, insurers, banks, employers, and other companies. According to Annual Medical Report:

There are roughly 400 consumer reporting agencies in the U.S., with three companies dominating the market – Equifax Information Services LLC, Experian Information Solutions Inc., and TransUnion LLC. In addition to the “Big 3″ credit reporting bureaus, there are hundreds of other “nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies” also collect and sell personal consumer information, such as banking histories, health data, medical payments, tenancy, employment, and insurance claims. These specialty credit reporting companies assemble or evaluate a consumer’s personal information, then sell it to third parties. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warns consumers that,

“Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies focus on certain industries, such as insurance. There are a lot of these companies.”

Many important decisions are made on these CRA reports, so it’s in your best interest to make sure the information is accurate, just like you should check your credit report annually (because more than a quarter of reports have errors on them). You can’t have your information removed from these agencies altogether, but you do have a legal right to see and dispute the information. It could make the difference between getting disability insurance or being turned down for it or even missing out on a job opportunity.

Many of the bureaus will send your report for free once a year after you jump through a few online form or phone call hoops; others will require a fee. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a partial list of the major consumer reporting agencies, their contact information, and how to order your report. Here’s the link to the CFPB’s list of major consumer reporting agencies in PDF format. (Please note, the CFPB’s list of specialty consumer reporting agencies is incomplete).”

For more information, read the full article “How to See the Info Consumer Reporting Agencies Have Collected on You” on Lifehacker.com.

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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.)

MIB.com Online Submission Form

(3) Complete and submit the MIB.com 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 MIB.com 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 www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore 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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Request Your Equifax Workforce Solutions Report – The Work Number – TALX Corporation

Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.) is a corporation that collects and sells personal information on 190 million Americans regarding employment history, week-by-week payroll, employee benefits, and employer-sponsored insurance coverage.

All consumers are entitled to request a copy of their Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.) without charge once every 12 months. A Work Number “Employment Data Report” includes a copy of the information potentially given to those requesting employment information on you from The Work Number. In addition, The Work Number Employment Data Report contains a list of each time a verifier has attempted to access some or all of your data using The Work Number. Individuals must contact The Work Number directly online at www.TheWorkNumber.com; by phone at 1-866-604-6570; by fax at 1-877-879-8182; or by mail at “TALX Corporation, ATTN: EDR, 1845 Borman Ct. Suite 337, St. Louis, MO 63146.”

Few consumers have ever heard of Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.). Even world-renowed privacy experts are unaware. “Are you joking? Oh my god, I’m shocked,” said privacy expert consultant Larry Ponemon, founder of the Ponemon Institute, upon learning of the existence of The Work Number credit reporting database.

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Companies Using Tobacco Smoking Penalty and Hiring Ban Against Workers

To fight rising health care costs, companies across America are penalizing workers for a range of health conditions, including high blood pressure and obesity. Cigarette smokers and tobacco users have also been added to the list of targeted employees. In all, about 40% of American employers reward or penalize employees based on tobacco use (smoke and smokeless).

tobacco-nicotine-cigarettesIn addition, a growing number of companies are refusing to hire smokers. These employers argue that coaxing tobacco users to quit with free cessation programs or cash incentives hasn’t worked. Currently, these hiring bans against smokers are legal in 21 states. More states are considering enacting hiring bans against smokers – about 4% adopting the policy and an additional 2% planning to do so next year, according to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health and consulting firm Towers Watson.

Most firms simply ask job candidates if they smoke, but a few require candidates to take urine tests to be screened for nicotine. As part of the background check, some companies are now purchasing personal information from database marketing and broker companies. In addition, nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies, including the Medical Information Bureau Inc., collect information on tobacco usage from its member insurance companies.

“It’s unethical,” says Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of medical ethics and health policy at UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Employers’ main motivation isn’t employee health, he says, but “to get the smoker off their health bill and pass on the costs to someone else.” But proponents say employers have given other methods a fair shake and need a tougher approach. David Asch, who co-wrote the academic paper in support of the ban, says that with hiring bans, smokers face a social consequence that is potentially more painful than nicotine withdrawal.

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Employer Health Care Penalty – When Your Boss Makes You Pay for Being Fat

As they fight rising health-care costs and poor results from voluntary wellness programs, companies across America are penalizing workers for a range of health conditions, including high blood pressure and thick waistlines. They are also demanding that employees share personal-health information, such as body-mass index, weight and blood-sugar level, or face higher premiums or deductibles.

Corporate_Wellness_Penalty

Six in 10 employers say they plan to impose penalties in the next few years on employees who don’t take action to improve their health, according to a recent study of 800 mid- to large-size firms by human-resources consultancy Aon Hewitt. A separate study by the National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson found that the share of employers who plan to impose penalties is likely to double to 36% in 2014. (PDF file: NBGH/Aon Hewitt Report: The Employee Health Care Mindset: Views, Behaviors, and Solutions (2010)).

Current law permits companies to use health-related rewards or penalties as long as the amount doesn’t exceed 20% of the cost of the employee’s health coverage. John P. Hancock, a veteran labor and employment attorney at Butzel Long, a Detroit-based law firm, says that while companies can’t legally dock a worker’s pay for a health issue, they can tie an employee’s health-care bill to whether the worker meets or misses health goals. As long as employers offer exemptions for workers with conditions that prevent them from meeting health goals, the firms are in the clear.

For example, employees at at Michelin North America Inc. who have high blood pressure or certain size waistlines may have to pay as much as $1,000 more for health-care coverage starting next year.

Employees at Michelin will be forced to pay the penalty unless they can prove they meet the Michelin’s corporate “healthy standards” for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and waist size—under 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Employees who hit baseline requirements in three or more categories will receive up to $1,000 to reduce their annual deductibles. Those who don’t qualify must sign up for a health-coaching program in order to earn a smaller credit.

Employers may argue that tough-love measures, such as punishing workers who evade health screenings, benefit their staff and lower health-care costs. Such steps also portend a murky future in which a chronic condition, such as hypertension, could cost workers jobs or promotions—or prevent them from being hired in the first place.

Employee-rights advocates say the penalties are akin to “legal discrimination.” While companies are calling them wellness incentives, the penalties are essentially salary cuts by a different name, says Lew Maltby, president of Princeton, N.J.-based National Workrights Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group for employee rights in the workplace. “No one ever calls a bad thing what it really is,” he says. “It means millions of people are getting their pay cut for no legitimate reason.”

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Medical Identity Theft Help – How to Detect It, How to Correct It

Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses an individual’s name or other parts of the individual’s identity – such as insurance information or Social Security Number – without the victim’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods.

data-cyber-key

Medical identity theft can also occur when someone uses the person’s identity to obtain money by falsifying claims for medical services and falsifying health records to support those claims. The essence of the crime is the use of a medical identity by a criminal and the lack of knowledge by the victim.

 

Identity theft of medical records can be especially difficult to fix. Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, said he expected the number of identity thefts from health care providers to keep rising. Consumers who have suffered medical identity theft need help and support to fix their records.

“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “We see hacking as a daily event. It just seems that the ability to protect this information is not easy.” As the protections become more sophisticated, “the hackers get smarter,” he said.

If you think you may be a victim of medical identity theft,  review the following quick tips for detecting and correcting medical identity theft:

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Medical Identity Theft of Health Records Is a Big Problem

Identity theft of health records (commonly referred to as “medical identity theft”) has become big business and a growing problem. Reports of health-record identity thefts jumped 61.5 percent in 2012, federal statistics show. Nationwide, 64,150 data breaches have occurred since October 2009, including 24,429 in 2012 alone, according to the Office for Civil Rights, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Privacy Identity Theft

In a report published in December 2012, the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research firm based in Traverse City, Mich., and ID Experts, data breach consultants in Portland, Ore., estimates that identity theft of health records cost the United States more than $40 billion in 2012, affecting 1.85 million people.

The toll on individuals is high. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. households lost about $13.3 billion because of all kinds of identity theft, including health records, in 2010, the latest statistics available. The average loss per household was about $2,200. Of the 1.8 million complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011, 15 percent involved identity theft of all types.

‘Threat is constantly there’

Identity theft of medical records can be especially pernicious. In most cases, thieves use the health data to make financial mischief. More troubling are cases of people being charged for procedures and tests they did not receive and having their medical files filled with the thief’s medical history.

This so-called “medical identity theft” made up 1 percent of all identity theft complaints to the FTC in 2011. But Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group in San Diego, said this is the No. 1 issue the World Privacy Forum deals with, generating hundreds of calls each year from people whose medical files have been corrupted by thieves’ medical information.

“It has led to so much harm,” she said. “Even when there is no [medical] mistreatment, it has caused countless hours of people trying to remove incorrect information from their file. There are serious legal hurdles in removing information from your file even when it’s fraudulent.” That’s because once a medical file includes another person’s medical history, some hospitals argue it can’t be turned over without consent of the impostor.

Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, said he expected the number of identity thefts from health care providers to keep rising.

“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “We see hacking as a daily event. It just seems that the ability to protect this information is not easy.” As the protections become more sophisticated, “the hackers get smarter,” he said.

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CVS Caremark To Penalize Employees Who Don’t Disclose Weight, Body Fat in Wellness Review

CVS Caremark Corporation has come under fire for asking employees covered under the company’s health care plan to disclose a range of personal information in a “wellness review” — from their weight to blood pressure — or face a financial penalty.  According to company statements, CVS is giving its 200,000 employees an ultimatum: submit your height, weight, body fat percentage (Body Mass Index, aka “BMI”), blood pressure, glucose levels, and other health indicators or suffer an on-going financial penalty of $50 per month.

Not only is CVS Caremark demanding that workers get “wellness reviews” under threat of financial penalty, CVS is also asking workers to give permission to the insurer to turn over that information to a firm that provides benefits support to CVS, the Boston Herald reports. CVS says it will pay for the weight, body fat and blood screenings. But in exchange, workers must sign a form saying the screening is voluntary, and that the insurer can give test results to WebMD Health Services Group (the firm provides health management programs and benefit support to CVS).

An internal CVS document leaked to the press warns that, “[Our CVS Caremark] Colleagues who take action to stay healthy or improve their health, and get results, will be rewarded. Those [CVS Caremark colleagues] who don’t take accountability will have to pay more in the future.” And although the CVS says the medical exams are completely voluntary, anyone who chooses not to weigh in will end up paying an extra $50 per month, or $600 a year more for benefits. And CVS employees don’t have a lot of time to decide what they’ll do; their screening results are due by May 1, 2013.

However, CVS Caremark is far from the only private or public employer one pushing workers to reveal detailed medical information. As health care costs tick up and employers rush to comply with new requirements tied to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, many companies are asking their workers (and in some cases, workers’ spouses) to undergo rigorous health care screenings aimed at encouraging healthier living — and boosting the company’s bottom line.

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“It Pays to Check Your Credit Report” Says FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection

You should really check your credit reports at least once a year. If you’re still not convinced, you should review the results of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) latest study, which shows just how error-prone and inaccurate the credit report files from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion can be.

The FTC looked at credit reports for 1,001 U.S. consumers and found that one-in-four (26%) people identified at least one material error among their credit reports from the three bureaus. These errors were not minor, but “material” in that the FTC says these alleged errors are in regard to information used to generate credit scores, including the number of collections accounts, the number of inquiries on a credit file, the number late or missed payments, among others. In other words, errors that will only cost you more money for the use of credit.

The FTC report is the first major study that looks at all the primary groups that participate in the credit reporting and scoring process: consumers; lenders/data furnishers (which include creditors, lenders, debt collection agencies, and the court system); the Fair Isaac Corporation, which develops FICO credit scores; and the national credit reporting agencies (CRAs).

Overall, the study found that around 5% of consumers saw corrections to their credit reports that resulted in a credit score swing of at least 25 points, putting them into a better credit risk tier and making them more attractive to lenders.

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Blue Shield of California to Pay $2 Million Legal Settlement for Illegal Policy Rescissions

California health insurance provider, Blue Shield, a San Francisco-based not-for-profit company, agreed to pay $2 million to the City of Los Angeles to resolve accusations that the insurance company improperly dropped policyholders after they got sick and needed expensive treatment. The settlement ends an investigation into more than 1,000 so-called rescissions by Blue Shield.

According to evidence presented in court filings, Blue Shield improperly dropped policyholders and paying customers without regard for whether their customers intended to deceive them about preexisting conditions. The practice resulted in some people losing coverage through no fault of their own, often over trivial bits of health history that had nothing to do with the claims that triggered the investigations.

President Obama made rescission a central theme in his push for a healthcare overhaul. In September 2010, a ban on rescissions for unintentional application errors became one of the first pieces of the healthcare law to take effect.

Blue Shield, in earlier agreements with state regulators, pledged to pay $3 million and to offer new coverage to hundreds of former policyholders. In recent years, Blue Shield is among a handful of California insurers that have paid millions to state and local regulators in response to investigations into the systematic dropping of policyholders with expensive medical needs.

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Health Insurance Reform At a Glance – Insurance Market Reforms that Protect Consumers

The recently enacted Federal Health Care law, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is designed to improve the health insurance marketplace by strengthening consumer protections and providing consumers with the information they need to choose the best health care coverage for their families.

The following list of consumer protections is prepared by the United States House Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor.

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Do a Total Background Check on Yourself – Annual Consumer Reporting Agencies

The Federal laws FCRA and FACTA, which govern the credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, also regulate a whole universe of other corporations known as “nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies” and include hundreds of companies, such as: the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB), OPTUMInsight (formerly Ingenix Inc.), Milliman Inc., LexisNexis C.L.U.E. Insurance Reports, the Insurance Services Office (ISO – A Plus Property Reports), ChexSystems Inc. (FIS), CoreLogic, Inc., CBC Innovis, Early Warning Services, TeleCheck, and Equifax Workforce Solutions – The Work Number (TALX).

In fact, just as financial companies rely on “credit reports” to establish credit for customers, others companies also utilize credit report files to assess consumers and charge higher prices in the markets of personal insurance (life, health, disability, and long-term care), residential housing and rentals, employment and income history, banking and checking account history, and property insurance (home, rental, other property, automobile, motorcycle, boating). There are an estimated 400 nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies collecting and selling personal data on 350 million Americans.

For example, health and life insurance corporations rely on some of these nationwide consumer specialty reporting agencies to provide powerful technologies for evaluating and pricing individual insurance applicants: personal “medical report” files.  The Washington Post says that “medical reports” are “like credit reports for your health records” and have been created on more than 200 million Americans.

The Top 25 Most Requested Annual Credit Reports

Here is a comprehensive list of websites, telephone numbers, and mailing addresses for the top 25 most frequently requested annual consumer reports available to you from the nationwide consumer reporting agencies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Through these reports, these consumer reporting agencies extensively monitor your personal medical, insurance, employment, rental, and banking history.

Federal law entitles all consumers to check and verify each report, once every year because these reports significantly impact your options and costs of credit. Use the information below to do a total background check on your credit reporting agency files. As The Consumerist advises, “Be sure to check them out and correct any errors, before a crisis hits.”
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Text of Health Care Bill – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590)

On March 23, 2010 in Washington, D.C. at The White House, President Barack Obama signed into law a nearly $1 trillion health care overhaul that ranks among the biggest changes ever devised by Washington and will reshape the way virtually every American receives and pays for treatment. It will rework fully one-sixth of the U.S. economy and for the first time cement insurance coverage as the right of every U.S. citizen.

However, until the regulations take effect in 2014, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you’re going to have a hard time buying individual insurance, in all but a handful of states. You might get turned down completely, or be charged very high premiums and probably also have to wait as long as a year (paying those very high premiums the whole time) before the health plan covers your condition’s treatment.

Health and life insurance corporations have powerful technologies for evaluating and pricing individual insurance applicants: personal “medical report” files.  The Washington Post says that these medical reports, which are “like credit reports for your health records,” have been created for more than 200 million Americans.

Alarmingly, your medical report files may include both medical and non-medical information about you.  For instance, personal data collected by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) may include medical conditions, credit report history, driving records, criminal activity, drug use, sexual orientation, participation in hazardous sports, and personal or family genetic history.  Using information from your medical report files, insurance companies can charge higher premiums or terminate coverage.

No consumer should pay for health or life insurance without first reviewing their annual medical report files.  Under Federal law, all consumers are entitled to an annual copy of their medical report files from the nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies, including the Medical Information Bureau Inc., Milliman Inc., and Ingenix Inc.

Read the full text of the Protection and Affordable Care Act – Bill Number H.R. 3590 below.

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Organizations that Protect Consumer Privacy in Health and Medical Records

Health information technology (“Health IT” or “Electronic Medical Records” or “Personal Health Records (PHR)”) has tremendous potential to improve health care quality and reduce costs while empowering patients to play a greater role in the management of their own care. At the same time, however, electronic storage and exchange of personal health information poses risks to privacy.  Unaddressed, privacy concerns can stand in the way of realizing the benefits of health IT, for neither patients nor providers will make full use of a system they do not trust.

As corporations such as Google (Google Health), Microsoft (Microsoft HealthVault), IBM (IBM Healthcare and IBM Health Integration Framework for Healthcare Providers), and UnitedHealth Group (MyOptumHealth.com) develop personal health systems (PHS) to exchange private medical records and health information, consumers must demand fully transparency in the use of their data and require access to check and verify their own personal records.

Federal laws give you the right to see, get a copy of and amend (correct) your medical record by adding information to it.  Additionally, most states have laws that give you rights to your medical records.  The following organizations help consumers and patients navigate the complex relationships between privacy, security, confidentiality, and the management of personal electronic health records.

The Prescription Project (The Pew Charitable Trusts)
Created with the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Prescription Project seeks to eliminate conflicts of interest created by pharmaceutical marketing by promoting policy change within academic medical centers, professional medical societies and public and private payers. In addition, the Prescription Project will advance state and national level policy solutions. New prescription drugs and medical devices are revolutionizing the practice of health care, enhancing disease management and improving quality of life. However, aggressive pharmaceutical marketing to physicians is creating real and perceived conflicts of interest in the medical profession and raising questions about the appropriateness of treatment choices. These practices can compromise patient care and increase health care costs. It is essential that physicians base their prescribing decisions on accurate and unbiased information, not on misleading marketing materials.
www.PrescriptionProject.org

Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Records Rights and Privacy
Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Records Rights and Privacy provides state-specific guides to help consumers access their medical records and electronic medical records. The Center on Medical Record Rights and Privacy is based at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, a non-partisan multi-disciplinary group of faculty and staff dedicated to conducting research on key issues in health policy and health services research. The Center is dedicated to raising public awareness of the rights and responsibilities associated with medical records and other health information. The Center focuses on a range of topics related to consumers’ rights to their own medical records and privacy protections afforded to this information. The Center has expertise in the Health Privacy Rule issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act as well as state laws that address medical record rights and privacy. The Center provides information on these topics to a broad range of stakeholders such as policy makers, health care professionals, consumers, and the media through research studies, policy analyses, testimony, and consumer guides.
http://hpi.georgetown.edu/privacy/records.html

The Health Privacy Project
The Center for Democracy and Technology’s Health Privacy Project addresses policy questions, including: the proper role of notice and consent, the right of patients to access their own health records, identification and authentication, secondary uses, and enforcement mechanisms. The Center for Democracy and Technology’s Health Privacy Project also tackles the traditional exchange of records among health plans and providers, as well as new consumer access services and personal health records. The Health Privacy Project is a resource for information on medical records confidentiality. Its web site includes information on federal HIPAA regulations as well as state laws of all 50 states.
www.healthprivacy.org
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Denied Insurance Because of A Medical Coding Error in Her MIB Report – Video

Consumer Reports Health’s Cover America Tour realized the impact of the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) when they visited Sheila (above) in Gulfport, Miss., the day after her 50th birthday.

When she attempted to apply for health insurance, Sheila was surprised when she was rejected for an individual health insurance policy by three different companies. She was even more shocked when she learned why: Her record with MIB listed her as having a history of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Sheila does suffer from asthma, but COPD is supposed to be used to indicate more severe diseases of the lungs, such as emphysema or severe bronchitis. No company would insure her with this damaging mark on her record.

Sheila eventually traced the problem to a coding disparity at her doctor’s office. She says letters and phone calls to both her doctor and MIB have been to no avail, and the problem remains uncorrected on her record, effectively blocking her from obtaining individual health coverage. Unable to obtain health insurance coverage because of this medical coding error on her MIB report, Sheila has been forced to exhaust her 401(k) savings to pay out of pocket for healthcare costs.

Watch Sheila’s story and, before you apply for insurance or pay another monthly premium, make sure you request a copy of your medical report file from the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).

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What is AnnualMedicalReport.com?

On behalf of families, workers, and businesses, AnnualMedicalReport.com is dedicated to improving privacy protections for personal medical information, establishing technological standards for insurance company use of consumer reporting data, and reducing out-of-pocket costs for consumers by detecting and deterring insurance company fraud and discrimination.

AnnualMedicalReport.com is dedicated to achieving three main goals:

1.  AWARENESS—Improve public knowledge about the existence of consumer “medical report” files collected by the nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies and sold to insurance companies.

2.  SECURITY—Establish a secure, online source for consumers to request disclosure of annual medical report files guaranteed under Federal law (FCRA and FACTA).

3.  FINANCIAL SAVINGS—Save consumers $1 billion dollars before the end of 2014 by detecting, correcting, and deterring corporate insurance fraud and discrimination.

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The Washington Post Says Prescription Data is Used to Assess Consumers

The Washington Post reports that Milliman, Inc. and Ingenix Inc. compile individual “medical report” profiles on insurance consumers. Amid growing privacy concerns, the Washington Post calls these reports, “health “credit reports” drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans.”

How does it this technology work?

“When an insurer makes an online query about an applicant, Ingenix or Milliman’s servers scour the data and within minutes or less return reports to a central server at the company. The server aggregates the information going back as far as five years, including the drugs and dosages prescribed, dates filled and refilled, the therapeutic class and the name and address of the prescribing doctor.”

Then comes the analysis. The MedPoint data tool, sold by Ingenix Inc., provides insurers a “pharmacy risk score,” or a number that represents an “expected risk” for a group of people. Of course, higher scores imply higher medical costs. Likewise, Milliman Inc.‘s IntelliScript codes pharmaceutical drugs for classification, according to the insurer’s instructions. So called “high-risk” codes could include AIDS cocktail drugs and cancer medications (both Ingenix and Milliman refuse to release their coding standards).

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FTC Decision and Order against Ingenix, Inc. (2008)

On February 6, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission filed a decision and order of their complaint against Ingenix, Inc. (In the Matter of INGENIX, INC., A CORPORATION. DOCKET NO. C-4214).

Consumers should be aware that Ingenix Inc. sells a medical data product called “MedPoint,” which collects and distributes personal medical information to paying corporations.

Ingenix Inc., operates MedPoint, a medical data collection and sales technology. The medical profile generated by MedPoint includes, but is not limited to, prescription drugs, including dosage and number of refills filled by the insurance applicant for the previous five years. It also includes for each drug, the name and address of the dispensing pharmacy, as well as the name and address of the prescribing doctor, including specialty medical practice. The medical profile generated by MedPoint analyzes the individual’s prescription drug history, and provides, based on that analysis, potential medical conditions that may be present and predictive scores for the individual.

All consumers can request an annual copy of their MedPoint reports from Ingenix Inc. by calling (888) 206-0335 or writing to: MedPoint Compliance, Ingenix, Inc., 2525 Lake Park Blvd, West Valley City Utah 84120.  Additional contact information can be found at www.ingenix.com/ContactUs/.

The public Federal Trade Commission decision and order against Ingenix, Inc. is reprinted below, in full.

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Take Action – All Consumers are Entitled to Request Annual Medical Reports (FCRA)

If you wouldn’t apply for credit without reviewing your credit report, don’t apply for health and life insurance without checking your medical report.

Health and life insurance corporations have powerful technologies for evaluating and pricing individual insurance applicants: personal “medical report” files. The Washington Post says that these medical reports, which are like credit reports for your health records, have been created for more than 200 million Americans.

Alarmingly, your medical report files may include both medical and non-medical information about you. For instance, personal data collected by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) may include medical conditions, credit report history, driving records, criminal activity, drug use, sexual orientation, participation in hazardous sports, and personal or family genetic history. Using information from your medical report files, insurance companies can charge higher premiums or terminate coverage. (more…)

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FTC Complaint Against Ingenix Inc., a UnitedHealth Group Company (2008)

In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Ingenix, a UnitedHealthGroup, Inc. Company. (In the Matter of INGENIX, INC., A CORPORATION. DOCKET NO. C-4214).

Consumers should be aware that Ingenix Inc. sells a medical data product called “MedPoint,” which collects and distributes personal medical information to paying corporations.

Ingenix Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, Inc., has contractual relationships to acquire data from Pharmacy Benefit Managers (“PBM”), which maintain records of individuals’ prescription drug histories. Ingenix Inc., through MedPoint, obtains an insurance applicant’s five-year prescription drug history from the PBMs and creates a prescription medical profile on the applicant for the insurance company. The medical profile generated by MedPoint includes, but is not limited to, prescription drugs, including dosage and number of refills filled by the insurance applicant for the previous five years. It also includes for each drug, the name and address of the dispensing pharmacy, as well as the name and address of the prescribing doctor, including specialty medical practice. The medical profile generated by MedPoint analyzes the individual’s prescription drug history, and provides, based on that analysis, potential medical conditions that may be present and predictive scores for the individual.

In its complaint, the Federal Trade Commission avers that Ingenix, Inc., through its product MedPoint, is a consumer reporting agency, and therefore subject to the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f), because,

“MedPoint regularly engages in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information or other information on consumers for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis. Ingenix, Inc. furnishes these consumer reports to third parties through the means or facilities of interstate commerce.”

You can request a copy of your MedPoint report from Ingenix Inc. by calling (888) 206-0335 or writing to: MedPoint Compliance, Ingenix, Inc., 2525 Lake Park Blvd, West Valley City Utah 84120. Additional contact information can be found at www.ingenix.com/ContactUs/.

The public Federal Trade Commission complaint against Ingenix, Inc. is reprinted below, in full. (more…)

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