The Medical Information Bureau by Crash 24601 Everyone knows about Equifax and TRW keeping a slew of information about private citizens. In a day when everyone is analyzed and stored bit-by-bit from grocery store computers tracking what you buy, how much of it, and how often, to mass mailing companies watching your demographics, of that often slips past public knowledge is the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). MIB, for the specific purpose of life insurance companies, tracks the medical conditions and health of anyone who has applied for life insurance. Formed shortly after the turn of the century, the basic purpose of the MIB is to reduce the cost of fraud by being able to cross-check medical information already obtained on a person by other insurance companies to ensure that the applicant doesn't have a selective memory. As sensitive as Americans are about their medical histories, one wonders how this information is kept secure, how it is moved, how it is used, and which information they keep. MIB has a membership of about 800 companies sharing information on their applicants. A person is added to MIB files when they apply for life insurance with a member company. Only people who have applied for life insurance should have records on file with MIB. Each member company applied to will first check with MIB to obtain any codes already on record for the applicant. The member company will add any additional codes for medical information they might discover after they have compiled all their medical information on the applicant. In order to receive records on a specific individual, the member company must have provided to the individual a written notice describing MIB, its functions, and consumer rights, and must also have a signed authorization from the individual to obtain medical information on them. MIB has over 200 codes representing various medical conditions. The majority of codes consist of 3-digits representing the condition, and 3- characters representing the severity of the condition, the source company reporting the information, and how long ago it was diagnosed/treated. A code is kept on file for seven years. Some irrelevant codes, such as sexual deviation, were removed in the mid 1970's after hearings on MIB practices were held. In addition to medical information, a few codes are available for use relevant to a person's possible longevity, such as bad driving records, dangerous sports, and aviation activities. An additional six pieces of information are kept to be used for the purpose of correctly identifying an applicant: first name, last name, middle initial, date of birth, place of birth, and occupation. Codes are transferred between MIB and the member company by a PC and proprietary software, both provided by MIB. Information is sent and received in its coded form via modem. After being printed, codes are taken to the underwriter working on the case. It is the underwriter who encodes and decodes the information at the insurance company. The information for decoding and encoding is kept in manuals, each with its own serial number and registered with MIB to the insurance company and a specific underwriter at the insurance company. Decoded medical information is intended to then be used as possible medical conditions to further check into and to be verified by the requesting member company. MIB periodically audits member companies to see that procedures are adhered to. Audits are on-site and consist of checking that information is being kept secure and confidential, that codes entered on applications are supported by information collected, that codes are being used only as a basis for further investigation, and that pre-notices and authorizations are being followed. MIB is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and falls under the Fair-Credit Reporting Act. Individuals have the right to receive copies of the files from MIB (not the encoded versions, of course), and to pursue corrections of information they dispute. MIB may require that a file be sent to a personal physician instead of the requesting individual if they feel it contains particularly sensitive information. MIB can be reached at: Medical Information Bureau (MIB) P.O. Box 105 Essex Station Boston, MA 02112 (617) 426-3660