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.

The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) maintains an consumer “medical report” file for every life and health insurance customer. In addition to an individual’s credit history, data collected by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) may include medical conditions, driving records, criminal activity, tobacco usage, alcoholism, drug addiction, participation in hazardous sports, sexual deviance, homosexuality, effeminate mannerisms, women’s questionable moral character, and personal or family genetic history, among other facts. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “All consumers are entitled to receive a copy of their medical report from the Medical Information Bureau, if requested, to verify that all information is correct.”

Subject of Controversy

Under questioning by a Senate Banking Committee, 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.

The 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.

In fact, the MIB operated on an unregulated basis until 1971, the subjects of its activities having neither notice of its existence, access to its reports about them, nor the ability to correct erroneous data. In 1974, the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner required MIB member companies to provide disclosure to consumers.  (Pa. Ins. Dept. Bulletins, Use of The Medical Info. Bureau by Life Ins. Companies, dated Feb. 15, 1974 & May 3, 1974.)

Today, the MIB remains secretive by refusing to release its list of underwriting codes, even amidst controversy over its use of non-medical codes such as alcoholism, criminal activity, sexual deviance, sloppy appearance, drug use, marital status, and homosexuality.

Errors and Inaccuracies

Statistics indicate that approximately 50% of credit reports from the major credit reporting agencies (eg, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have errors on them. However, for consumer report files from the nationwide specialty credit reporting agencies for insurance (e.g., MIB, Ingenix, and Milliman) the number is unknown. Although no recent figures are available, it is estimated that about 5% – 10% of medical report files are inaccurate or contain errors. In 1996, the last year data is available, 3% of consumers who received their MIB report found inaccuracies.

Astonishingly, during the same year (1996), MIB’s member companies accounted for 99% of the individual life insurance policies and 80% of all health and disability policies issued in the United States. As compared to millions of consumers that MIB has on file, the request volume is disproportionately low. This can be attributed to previous “secrecy” of MIB.

For decades, MIB refused to reveal it existence to insurance customers. MIB continues to enjoy anonymity and brand unawareness – in a 1999 poll conducted by Princeton Research Associates for The California Healthcare Foundation, 84% of Americans had never heard of, or were aware they dealt with, the MIB Group Inc.

Customer Complications

The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) did a study on MIB and found numerous cases in which erroneous records in the company’s files had prevented people from getting insurance. In one case, said Josh Kratka, a MASSPIRG attorney, a Massachusetts man told his insurance company that he had been an alcoholic but had managed to remain sober for several years and that he regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous. The insurance company denied him coverage and forwarded a code to MIB: “alcohol abuse; dangerous to health.” The next company the man applied to for insurance learned of the “alcohol abuse” through the Medical Information Bureau and charged the man a 25% higher rate.”

Technically, underwriters shall only use MIB reports as a warning for further investigation and not as the basis for establishing an applicant’s eligibility for insurance. Lawyers at the FTC aren’t amused by this technicality, concluding that “undoubtedly, MIB reports are often a significant factor in the underwriting process.”

Right to Annual Requests

To request a free copy of your annual file from the MIB, Inc. (Medical Information Bureau), complete one of the following options: (1) Call the MIB, Inc. toll-free telephone number at 1-866-692-6901 to make your request. OR, (2) Download this free MIB 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.

“The MIB, Inc., and all insurance companies who are members of the MIB, will abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” 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.”

Related News:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,