Medical Information Bureau: Understanding the Importance of Medical Records in Life Insurance

The Medical Information Bureau (now known as MIB) is a consumer reporting agency that’s over a century old with a mission to protect insurance companies, applicants, and policyholders. MIB ensures that the medical, driving, and credit information it keeps on its database is accurate and complete. You might not have a file on the MIB database, but you have certain privacy rights if you do have an MIB consumer file.

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Feb 28, 2022

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Quick Facts

  • MIB has around 400 members, which includes health and life insurance companies from the United States, Canada, and parts of the Caribbean
  • Information on MIB’s database includes medical information, DMV information, and information about applicants’ activities and habits
  • You may not have a file on the MIB’s database based on your past health, your current health, your life insurance plans, and the last time you applied for health and life insurance

What is the Medical Information Bureau’s purpose, and how can it affect your life insurance? Also, who makes up the Medical Information Bureau currently?

The Medical Information Bureau is now known as MIB, and is a non-profit corporation that securely maintains consumer information. Health and life insurance companies use MIB’s database to verify applicants’ health information.

Read on to know more about MIB, including the company’s history and whether your information is on its database. We also discuss how you can access your MIB consumer file.

How long has the MIB been in existence, and what does it do?

In 1902, a group of life insurance companies formed the Medical Information Bureau to establish a database for insurance products.

Since its founding, the firm’s mission has been to protect applicants, policyholders, and insurance companies. When the MIB has accurate information:

  • Insurance companies can avoid fraud
  • Applicants will have a fair underwriting process
  • Policyholders will pay more reasonable insurance rates

MIB is a member-owned organization, and today, its members include around 400 health and life insurance companies in the U.S., Canada, and parts of the Caribbean. Member companies contribute to MIB’s database and thus share information about life and health insurance applicants.

The companies share health information with MIB like financial institutions share consumers’ financial information with credit bureaus. Also, like credit bureaus, the MIB must adhere to the Financial Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

MIB’s required adherence to the FCRA came about in 1995 when the Federal Trade Commission adopted the policy change.

Per the FCRA, you can access a free copy of your MIB Underwriting Services Consumer File once per year. MIB also grants you access to an additional free copy of the file if a life insurance company rejects your application.

It is best to request a copy of your consumer file before you apply for a life insurance policy to ensure that your information is correct.

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How do insurance companies use information from MIB?

When you apply for individual health or life insurance policies, disability income, or insurance for long-term care, you need to disclose personal information to an insurance company.

You also need to give the insurance company permission to access your medical records. In turn, insurance companies must disclose how they use your health information.

During the life insurance underwriting process, an insurance company might access the MIB database. Insurance companies will weigh your answers to health questions against your medical history.

Insurance companies may also look for the following information:

  • Your DMV information. That information includes your overall driving history, including accidents and moving violations, if applicable.
  • Your habits and activities. Do you smoke or gamble? Do you participate in a dangerous activity, like bungee jumping? These activities may increase the risk for an insurance company.
  • Your credit information. Your payment history may indicate the likelihood of you staying current with your insurance payments.

All the above information may affect your insurance rates and determine if the insurance company accepts your application. For example, if you need life insurance with a medical condition, you can expect to pay higher rates than average.

Is your health information on MIB’s database?

Your information might be on MIB’s database if you have health issues that increase an insurance company’s risk and you applied for an individual plan from an MIB member within the past seven years.

Your information is likely not on the MIB database if you are in relatively good health. Also, you will not need to undergo the writing process if you have an employer-sponsored life or health insurance plan. Those are group plans with automatic coverage for employees.

Note that guaranteed issue policies also do not require you to answer questions about your health. But you may pay higher rates for those plans and receive limited coverage.

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Are there any privacy concerns with MIB’s information?

If you have privacy concerns regarding MIB, there are a few things you need to consider.

First, you can limit the information insurance companies give to the MIB. Insurance companies need your consent to share your health information with MIB and check your info via the database. Also, you can dispute the information on MIB’s database.

Second, MIB does not directly retrieve your health information from any doctors you’ve seen in the past. Member companies must provide that information after receiving your permission.

Third, member insurance companies use confidential and proprietary codes instead of listing all your medical details on the database. Those codes don’t have personally identifying information but represent broad categories that indicate your health issues and life expectancy.

Here is information that the codes indicate:

  • General medical conditions you reported on your life insurance policy application
  • The types of treatment you have received
  • Dates of your diagnoses and treatments for illnesses
  • Any prescriptions you used in the past five years (including dosage and refill information)
  • Test results from medical exams you took as part of the underwriting process
  • Your smoking history, if applicable
  • Your high-risk activities, if applicable

The codes will not include the following information:

  • The severity of your condition(s)
  • Whether your past applications were accepted or rejected
  • If you had high or low life insurance rates in the past

If the answers you gave to an insurance company conflict with what it finds on MIB’s database, the insurance company will contact you to provide more information. That might lead to more paperwork and delay your application.

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How can you access your MIB Underwriting Services Consumer File?

You can access your MIB Underwriting Services Consumer File at the MIB website (through the Request Your Record page) or by calling MIB’s phone number at 1-866-692-6901. You will need to provide personal information, which MIB will verify with other consumer reporting agencies.

Once MIB verifies your information, it will either send you a “no record” letter or a copy of your Underwriting Services Consumer File by mail. If your file exists, it should contain medical and personal information in the MIB’s database when you made your request.

Of course, your file will also contain the name of any MIB member that meets the following criteria (for U.S. citizens):

  • The insurance company received a copy of your file via the MIB database three years before your request.
  • It made an inquiry about you in the past two years.
  • The company received a copy of a record that includes the dates other member companies made inquiries about you three years before your request.
  • The member company subscribes to the Disability Insurance Record System and reports information about your application and coverage, if applicable. That information should include the types of benefits you applied for and how much you received within the past five years.

Once you receive the copy of your file, look closely at the information to see if it is correct.

How can you dispute your MIB Underwriting Services Consumer File?

MIB holds that only 1% to 2% of its Underwriting Services Consumer Files need amending due to inaccurate or incomplete information, but mistakes happen.

To dispute any information on your MIB consumer file, you can contact MIB’s Disclosure Office via email ([email protected]) or by mail. The Disclosure Office address is 50 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 400, Braintree, Massachusetts 02184.

You will need to submit a signed Request for Reinvestigation Form online or a signed letter. In addition, you will need to provide the following information to initiate the process:

  • Full name (including your middle initial and name suffix, like Jr.)
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Each item on your MIB Underwriting Services Consumer File that you feel is inaccurate or incomplete

There is no charge to submit a dispute, and the process may take up to 45 days. After its reinvestigation, MIB will send you the results via mail.

So, there you have it. The MIB protects insurance companies, but one of the non-profit’s priorities is protecting consumer privacy. To best protect yourself, be honest when applying for a life insurance policy, and check periodically with MIB to ensure it keeps accurate information about you.

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