What is the Medical Information Bureau?
The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) is the old name for the MIB Group, a corporation owned by hundreds of insurance companies. It offers underwriting services that its member companies across the U.S. and Canada use to assess an individual’s risk and eligibility before they offer them certain insurance products.
How the MIB works
The MIB has been operated since 1902. The group works to fight insurance fraud and compile data to support the underwriting process for their members, which consists of the vast majority of insurance companies in the U.S. and Canada.
To accomplish these goals, the MIB compiles information about individuals. Essentially, any time you apply for life or health insurance, the MIB starts or adds to a record for you. They don’t keep your full medical records on file, but they do keep coded information that identifies certain medical and other relevant facts about you.
Insurance companies can’t randomly pull information from the MIB about individuals. Instead, when you apply for life or health insurance, you sign a HIPAA waiver. That allows the underwriter to pull the MIB file on you and use the coded information to compile certain facts for the underwriting process.
How insurers use the MIB
The MIB is a lot like a credit reporting agency. The difference is that rather than reporting financial behaviors, they report medical and insurance application information. Essentially, they function as an information exchange for most major insurance companies.
Today, most insurance companies use the MIB when underwriting any of the following policy types:
- Critical illness
- Long-term care
In addition to HIPAA-protected, coded medical data about an individual, the MIB report on that person will also show any recent insurance applications. It won’t show the action that the insurance company took, though. For example, if the insurer denied coverage to an individual, that won’t show up.
Based on the information you reported for past applications, the MIB report will show:
- The dates you applied for coverage
- Medical conditions
- Treatments you’ve received
- The source of the medical information
- Other relevant information from past applications
If, for example, you reported that you were a smoker on a life insurance application a few years ago but said you were a nonsmoker now, that will come up.
The MIB report isn’t the sole source of data used during underwriting, though. Take life insurance as an example. Life insurance companies usually combine the MIB report with a medical exam, a list of your medications, a medical questionnaire, and information from your doctor in order to decide if you’re eligible for coverage and, if so, your risk level.
The riskier you are (in life insurance, the sooner you’re likely to die), the more the insurance company charges for your premiums.
Pulling your MIB report
MIB reports aren’t some mysterious documents that only insurance professionals can access. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), all individuals have the option to request a free copy of their report once a year.
If you’re planning to apply for life and health insurance, requesting a copy of your report can be helpful. If you go through the report and find any inaccuracies, you can request that your file be amended. If the incorrect information indicates that you’re higher risk (e.g., if it says you were diagnosed with a condition you don’t have), getting that info pulled from your report can make you more likely to get approved for insurance — and can make that coverage cheaper.
If you dispute anything on your report, the reinvestigation process takes 45 days. To ensure any report updates go on file for you in time for the underwriting process, it’s advisable to request your MIB report at least a couple of months before you plan to apply for a new life or health policy.