Meet the MIB – that’s Medical Insurance Board, not Men in Black

May 3, 2010

With all the talk of health insurance reform, including much reference to pre-existing conditions, and rules on when coverage may be canceled by an insurer, it’s natural to wonder exactly who is “in charge” of all that information. The answer? The MIB, that stands for Medical Insurance Board, and they’re a membership organization owned by life insurance companies in the United States and Canada.

Their purpose is to maintain a database which allows their member companies to exchange “confidential information of underwriting significance” whenever someone applies disability income, health insurance, life insurance, long term care, or critical illness insurance. This information is submitted to the MIB whenever an insurance application is completed, transmitted in a coded, encrypted format which ensures that confidential information remains so.

What does your MIB file include? If you’ve ever looked at the invoice for a doctor visit, before or after insurance, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a code number attached to every procedure and every complaint. That coded information, which identifies everything from medical conditions to tests to some non-medical items of data like hazardous hobbies or a dangerous job, is reported by MIB members (your doctor or hospital) to the MIB, itemized under fairly general categories. Don’t worry, the MIB doesn’t have the details; they only get a coded “resume” provided by the member.

When you apply for insurance coverage, underwriters at your insurer compare the information on your application to the coded information your file. No decisions – such as declining to offer coverage, or charging you a higher premium – can be made entirely on the basis of these coded reports, but they are used as an alert system.

If you wish to find out if you have an MIB file, and what information it contains, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, allows you make an annual request for free disclosure of your report. Only you can make the request, and you’ll be required to answer some identifying information before it’s released.