Few things are more private to consumers then their own health and medical records. So it may surprise you to learn that there are national reporting bureaus that collect and sell your personal health and medical information to insurance companies who then use the information to raise your insurance rates, terminate existing coverage or otherwise deny you from participating in private group health insurance plans.
Collection and sale of your private health history occurs through three major private reporting agencies, Medical Information Bureau (MIB), Ingenix and Milliman. Each of these companies have developed massive nationwide health information data bases. Currently, nearly 99% of all individual life insurance policies and 80% of all health and disability insurance issued in the United States is purchased from these three companies.
Health Record Files May Also Contain Non-Medical Information
Your health report files may contain both medical and non-medical information. For example, your file may not only include information about you medical conditions, but also provide insurance companies with your credit history, driving record, criminal activity, drug use, and sexual orientation.
The question that needs to be answered is whether anyone is protecting consumers. from these private companies that profit on knowing what is commonly thought to be confidential private health and medical information.
Consumer Advocate Companies – Keeping Them Honest
Under Federal law, all consumers are entitled to annual medical reports from each of the nationwide reporting agencies that sell the information to participating insurance companies.
One way to protect yourself is to obtain a copy of your health report file from each of the three major reporting agencies. You can do this yourself or go through an independent company such as AnnualMedicalReport.com. This is one of a handful of private organization that keeps consumers informed as to what is being reported about them by each of the three health reporting agencies.
How Does The Medical Information Bureau Acquire Consumer Health Information
When you apply for life, health or disability insurance, you are often required to substantiate the status of your current and prior health conditions including disclosing prior medical disorders, the prescription drugs you are taking, frequency of refills and dosages.
While the federal government has enacted strict consumer protection laws that would otherwise protect you from third-party disclosure of your private information, reporting agencies have found ways to avoid the clear intent of these laws.
To counter the potential for wholesale abuse of your private health information, the Federal Trade Commission relies on the Fair Credit Reporting Act to counter abusive practices.
Quoting from an FTC Staff Opinion, “In an area as important and personal as insurance, it is essential that consumers feel they are being treated fairly…Consumers will now be told of the role that MIB reports have played in the denial or rating of insurance, and will be able to exercise the self-help remedies afforded by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”
What does fair credit reporting have to do with disclosure of confidential medical information?
One way to understand the connection is to think of it within the context of obtaining a “credit report for your health” before it gets passed on to other insurance companies seeking information about your eligibility to obtain different types of health coverage.
In order to qualify for medical, life or disability coverage, insurance companies want to first make sure the applicant is a good risk. More directly stated, insurance companies, not unlike money lenders, attempt to stack the odds in their favor by denying medical benefits to those who will actually use them and by maximizing the amounts their customers pay for these services through monthly premium payments.