Medical Information Bureau (MIB Inc.) is Valuable Unit of the Insurance Industry

The Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB, Inc.) is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency for health conditions and personal lifestyle data. The MIB consists of approximately 500 insurance company members.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, MIB’s member companies account for 99 percent of the individual life insurance policies and 80 percent of all health and disability policies issued in the United States and Canada.

“MIB’s value to the insurance industry can hardly be overestimated. Not only to do some applicants forget to list ailments that could cost the insurer money but fraudulent applications are common.”

The Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB, Inc.) also “plays a critical role in the lives of many thousands of individuals, affecting not only their security but their finances as well. But many of those affected have little idea that the MIB played a part. This is partly by design.” (Source, “Medical Bureau is Valuable Unit of Insurance Industry” published by The Associated Press (AP) on July 14, 1971). (more…)

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MIB Executive Testifies that Reporting Agency Collects Personal Data on Sexual Deviation

The landmark consumer protection law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was passed in 1970. The FCRA, which went into effect in 1971, originally exempted disclosure of medical information by data-gathering organizations such as the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), although it did direct disclosure to consumers of information that would be detrimental to a person’s credit rating. In 1973, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Subcommittee for Consumer Credit, held hearings on the use of medical information for insurance underwriting.

During these hearings, the Senate subcommittee chairman, Senator William Proxmire, questioned Joseph C. Wilberding, executive director and general counsel of the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). Mr. Wilberding testified that the individual consumer files collected and exchanged by MIB, “included data on sexual deviation, drug addiction, alcoholism and such hazardous hobbies as auto racing and flying.” (Source, “Insurance Data Called Faulty“, The New York Times, October 4, 1973.)

That consumers are largely unaware of the MIB’s existence cannot be blamed on individual apathy or misinformation. The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) was purposefully hidden by its employees. Mr. Wilberding also testified that “applicants for health insurance policies were “not told” that medical information would be made available to the 700 companies that support the data bank, and insisted that applicants “shouldn’t be told.” (more…)

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Credit Reporting Agency Equifax Workforce Solutions Hired by HHS to Verify Incomes for Obamacare Insurance Subsidies

Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.)  was recently awarded a federal contract by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to verify the incomes, employment, and employer-sponsored health coverage status (including price) of American consumers who apply for federal tax credits to offset insurance premium costs under the Obamacare insurance mandate (as stipulated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)).

The contract between HHS and Equifax is for an initial 12-month period, with yearly options to renew, bringing its potential value to $329.4 million over five years. As reported, “Equifax Workforce Solutions will provide information [about individuals] that is more current than what is available on federal income tax returns.” Furthermore, contract documents show that Equifax must provide income information “in real time,” usually within a second of receiving a query from the federal government.

The basic application for health coverage under Obamacare includes warnings that applicants are “signing under penalty of perjury” and consent to verify information in “databases from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security, Department of Homeland Security, and/ or a consumer reporting agency.” This arrangement is fraught with peril for consumers. Under the PPACA health insurance mandate, all consumers must purchase this financial product; for consumers seeking tax credits through federally-run HIE’s, there are no reasonable choices or alternatives but to subject yourself to the consumer reporting agency background check / income verification process.

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Who is Buying Your Medical Records from the Hospital?

Add another vulnerability in an increasingly long list of threats to patient privacy – states are selling ‘anonymized’ hospital databases containing patient medical records that can be personally identified using publicly available information.

Although seemingly ‘anonymized’, researchers at the Harvard University Data Privacy Lab have demonstrated that individual patients can be identified using only publicly available information and their medical background.

In its special report, States’ Hospital Data for Sale Puts Privacy in Jeopardy, Bloomberg News made records request to each of the 20 most-populous states for lists of who’s buying their hospital discharge data. Only 12 states responded and supplied the data; the states are Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.
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States’ Hospital Data for Sale Puts Patient Privacy in Jeopardy

Hospitals in the U.S. pledge to keep a patient’s health background confidential. Federal law even establishes stringent standards for the use and dissemination of personal health information. Yet states like Arizona, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, and Washington are endangering patient privacy by selling medical records that can be used to link a person’s identity to medical conditions via public information.

Bloomberg News, in conjunction with Latanya Sweeney, Director of Harvard’s Data Privacy Law, re-identified 35 people out of 81 sample cases searched in a database of hospital discharge records that Washington State sold to the public for $50. In another patient database sample, Latanya Sweeney was able to identify the Governor of Massachusetts using ‘anonymized’ data her lab purchased from the state. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, certain states are exposing the personal medical information of millions of patients.

The data is supposed to remain anonymous. However, a specific “state exemption” from federal regulations allows states to sell large volumes of ‘hospital discharge data’ to data brokers and nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies. Although seemingly ‘anonymized’, researchers at the Harvard University Data Privacy Lab have demonstrated that individual patients can be identified using only publicly available information and their medical background.

Twelve of the most populous states generated $1.91 million from 1,698 requests for data from 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, according to state records reviewed by Bloomberg News. Washington sold its database 95 times in 2011 and generated just $15,950.
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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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Healthcare.gov Open for Consumers and Health Insurance Companies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under the authority of President Barack Obama, unveiled an innovative new online tool to help consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to new information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable health care coverage.  As stipulated by the Affordable Care Act, HealthCare.gov is the first website to provide consumers with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool.

HealthCare.gov helps consumers take control of their health care and make the choices that are right for them, by putting the power of information at their fingertips,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “For too long, the insurance market has been confusing and hard to navigate.  HealthCare.gov makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to compare health insurance plans in both the public and the private sector and find other important health care information.”

HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options, combining information about public programs, from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans. Consumers can receive information about options specific to their life situation and local community. In addition, the website will be a one-stop-shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as other health care resources. The website will connect consumers to quality rankings for local health care providers as well as preventive services. (more…)

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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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Privacy Issues Complicate Obama’s Plan to Link Electronic Medical Records and Health Data

In the past decade, personal health information on hundreds of thousands of people has been compromised because of security lapses at hospitals, insurance companies and government agencies. These breaches occurred despite federal privacy rules issued under a 1996 law.

Congress is trying to strengthen those privacy protections and make sure they apply to computer records. At the same time, lobbyists for insurers, drug benefit managers and others in the health industry are mobilizing a campaign to persuade Congress that overly stringent privacy protections would frustrate the potential benefits of digital records.

Thus, President Barack Obama’s plan to link up doctors and hospitals with new information technology is imperiled by a bitter dispute over how to protect the privacy of electronic medical records.  Lawmakers, caught in a crossfire of lobbying by the health care industry and consumer groups, have been unable to agree on privacy safeguards that would allow patients to control the use of their medical records.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, advocated such safeguards when he was a House member from Illinois. “As we move forward on health information technology,” Mr. Emanuel said, “it is absolutely essential that an individual’s most personal and vulnerable information is protected.”  All consumers that pay for insurance or pharmaceuticals should request an annual copy of their medical report files to verify their personal information has not been erroneoulsy bought or sold.
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New Laws Affecting Credit Cards, Credit Reports, and Gift Cards

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (also known as the Credit CARD Act) established sweeping changes intended to help limit deceptive marketing of practices, excessive credit card fees, and hefty interest rate increases.  Starting in 2010, certain corporations will be required to make more disclosures and they face new limits on certain credit card practices.

Every person is entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the four nationwide financial consumer reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion.  By Feb. 22, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission must formalize the rules governing this access to prevent deceptive marketing of the credit reports.

The FTC has one proposal that would prohibit the credit bureaus from offering any product or service until after consumers get their free reports.  The law currently permits the credit reporting agencies to advertise their proprietary products and services through the centralized source, in this case AnnualCreditReport.com.

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Meet the Medical Information Bureau, Inc.

Life insurance companies 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 officially America’s oldest and longest continuously operating credit reporting agency.

The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) Inc. is a Delaware-registered non-stock corporation owned by approximately 500 North American insurance companies. The corporate membership of the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) accounts for 99 percent of the individual life insurance policies and 80 percent of all health and disability policies issued in the United States and Canada. The MIB is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency and thus required to obey all applicable state and federal laws.

Deep Data

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.” (Source, MIB Group, Inc. “HealthRisk ID” marketing materials). It’s flagship data product, the MIB Checking + Follow Up Service, saves the insurance industry over $1 billion annually. (more…)

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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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Personal Prescription Data is Bought and Sold by Insurers and Pharmaceutical Companies

Prescriptions, and all the information on them — including not only the name and dosage of the drug and the name and address of the doctor, but also the patient’s address and Social Security number — are a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients’ knowledge or permission.

If enforced, the federal stimulus law enacted by the Obama administration in February 2009 prohibits in most cases the sale of personal health information, with a few exceptions for research and public health measures like tracking flu epidemics.  The new provisions also tighten rules for telling patients when hackers or health care workers have stolen their Social Security numbers or medical information, as happened to Britney Spears, Maria Shriver and Farrah Fawcett before she passed away in June 2009.
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Nobody Knows the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) (Secrecy and Privacy)

The Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB Inc.) (a/k/a, MIB Group, Inc., a/k/a, MIB, Inc., a/k/a, MIB Solutions, Inc.) has been the subject of ongoing controversy since the 1970’s, when its existence first became generally known. Even today, the Medical Information is an unknown entity; most consumers, doctors, and even politicians, remain unaware of its existence.

The Medical Information Bureau has a penchant for secrecy. For many years, insurance agencies consulted MIB without telling applicants about the files. MIB even had an unlisted phone number. Today, the secret continues, if to a lesser extent: MIB won’t publish its list of corporate members or release the list of codes it uses. More importantly, the MIB refuses to provide a centralized, secure, online source for consumers to request, review, and dispute their medical report files.

The following article, “Nobody Knows the MIB” by, Simson Garfinkel is excerpted from Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (2000):

“… As part of his Ph.D. thesis at Harvard Business School on privacy policies in corporate America, Jeff Smith surveyed more than a thousand people on a variety of privacy issues, and conducted in-depth interviews with several dozen. One of the key questions he asked was whether people had ever heard of a company called the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). What he found wasn’t terribly surprising: they hadn’t… I asked my wife if she knew what the Medical Information Bureau was. She said she didn’t. (more…)

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Medical Information Bureau (MIB) Fact Sheet is Current (from 1990)

The Medical Information Bureau (a/k/a, MIB Group, Inc., a/k/a, MIB, Inc., a/k/a, MIB Solutions, Inc.) is the nation’s largest insurance reporting agency. Under Federal law, every consumer is entitled to a free annual copy of their medical report file.

MIB’s basic purpose was (and continues to be) to detect and deter fraud and misrepresentation in connection with the underwriting of life and health insurance and claims. MIB helps “keep the cost of insurance down for insurance companies and for consumers by preventing losses that would occur due to fraud or omissions,” says Neil Day, MIB’s president.

For many years, insurance agencies consulted MIB without telling applicants about the files. MIB even had an unlisted phone number. Today, the secret continues, if to a lesser extent: MIB won’t establish a secure website for consumers to request, review, and dispute their MIB medical reports.

In the past the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) reported codes in consumers’ files for such non-medical information as “sexual deviance” and “sloppy appearance.” MIB, Inc. President Neil Day disagrees, but since the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) won’t release the list of conditions for which it has created codes, there is really no way to know for sure. There have also been disagreements over the accuracy of MIB’s files.

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Order Your Medical Report File from MedPoint by Ingenix Inc.

All consumers are entitled by law to receive an annual copy of their medical report file kept by Ingenix, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, Inc.) Under an order from the Federal Trade Commission in 2008, Ingenix, Inc., and all healthcare and insurance companies that utilize the MedPoint prescription profiling technology, agreed to abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. (more…)

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Medical Problems Could Include Identity Theft and Credit Report Complications

Medical identity theft is happening frequently in the United States. The last time federal data on the crime was collected, for a 2007 report, more than 250,000 Americans a year were victims of medical identity theft. That number has almost certainly increased since then, because of the increased use of electronic medical records systems built without extensive safeguards, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the nonprofit World Privacy Forum and author of a report on medical identity theft.

And uncountable, Ms. Dixon said, are the people who do not yet know they are victims. They may not know that their medical information has been tampered with for months or even years until, as in Mr. Sharp’s case, it shows up in collections on a credit report. With medical identity theft, the fraudulent charges can remain unpaid and unresolved for years, permanently damaging your credit rating.
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Resumen de sus Derechos Legales Bajo la Ley de Informes de Credito Justos (Fair Credit Reporting Act)

Se trata de un“Resumen de Sus Derechos Bajo el Fair Credit Reporting Act” (“Informes de Credito Justos“), preparado por la Comisión Federal de Comercio (http://www.annualcreditreport.gov). Conozca sus derechos como consumidor! (more…)

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