As consumers, we would never apply for credit cards or mortgages without checking our “annual credit reports” to ensure accuracy and fair pricing.  However, there is virtually no awareness among consumers that a few, large corporations collect, store, and sell their most intimate medical information in the form of “medical report” files.  These “medical report” files, which the Washington Post compares to “credit reports for your health records,” are critical tools for health and life insurance companies evaluating and pricing insurance applicants and policyholders.

Surprisingly, these organizations have managed to stay under the radar for decades. For example, The New York Times reported that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Subcommittee for Consumer Credit, held hearings on the use of medical information for insurance underwriting in 1973. During the hearing, Joseph C. Wilberding, the former executive director and general counsel of the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), testified that the individual consumer files collected and exchanged by MIB, “included data on sexual deviation, drug addiction, alcoholism and such hazardous hobbies as auto racing and flying.”

Furthermore, Mr. Wilberding stated that the MIB was hidden by design. In fact, employees of The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) kept its activities clandestine. Mr. Wilberding testified that “applicants for health insurance policies were “not told” that medical information would be made available to the 700 companies that support the data bank, and insisted that applicants “shouldn’t be told.”

Under current Federal Law, the activities of the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB)OPTUMInsight, Inc. (formerly, Ingenix, Inc. and currently owned by UnitedHealth Group, Inc.), and Milliman, Inc. qualify them as “nationwide specialty credit reporting agencies” and thus are required to provide annual copies of medical reports to consumers. To enforce compliance on providing annual “medical reports” as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Federal Trade Commission reached consent agreements with the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. in 1983 and 1995; with OPTUMInsight (known as Ingenix, Inc.) in 2007 and 2008; and with Milliman, Inc. in 2007 and 2008.

Consumer medical report files, sold to insurers by the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB)OPTUMInsight, Inc. (formerly Ingenix, Inc.), and Milliman, Inc. enable health and life insurance corporations to charge higher premiums and power the technology behind rescission of coverage.  Alarmingly, your medical report files may include both medical and non-medical information about you.  For instance, personal data collected by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) may include medical conditions, credit report history, driving records, criminal activity, drug use, sexual orientation, participation in hazardous sports, and personal or family genetic history.

No consumer should pay for health or life insurance without first reviewing their annual medical report files. Under Federal law, all consumers are entitled to annual medical reports from each of the nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies. All nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies must also, “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.”