What is the MIB (Medical Information Bureau)?

It sounds pretty ominous…the MIB or Medical Information Bureau. Our imaginations can quickly get a head of us as we picture men in long coats with ear-pieces rifling through the local doctor’s garbage for a piece of “Gotcha” information. Let’s take some of the mystery out of the MIB and find out how it affects term life insurance underwriting.

First, what is the MIB? Let’s begin with who initiated it. It was founded in 1902. It is essentially an information depot jointly formed and used by insurance companies…both life and medical (when the distinction applies). It operates as a non-profit in this endeavor. Essentially, the life insurance companies will deposit relevant health information that is accessible during the application process so that other carriers will have access to health information for future applications/claims settlements. What’s the purpose of this? Well, if a person applies for coverage and a history of cancer or elevated cholesterol (say from paramedical exam) shows forth, future carriers will be able to see this information in case the same applicant tries to apply with another carrier and leaves this information off the application. In a nutshell, it’s a medical information data collection with which to compare against what an applicant is stating in their current application. This information is still restricted to the 2 year contestability clause which means that a carrier needs to show fraud or misrepresentation from information such as that provided by the MIB within 2 years of the policies’ effective date in order to rescind the life policy. After this 2 year period, the information remains in the MIB but typically cannot be used against the applicant to rescind coverage or avoiding paying a life insurance claim. This information would however affect future life or medical applications that the same person attempts.

As far as life insurance underwriting goes, the MIB information may not be used to deny coverage or have an additional premium to be paid but it defeats the purpose of having life insurance to have false or incomplete information that jeopardizes the future of your policy.

There are certain rules that MIB must abide by. The applicant must be given a written notice that a statement of their medical status can be provided to the MIB as a result of the life insurance application process. Also, this authorization allows the MIB to provide this information to other insurers that request this information at the time of application or when filing a claim. Furthermore, an applicant can request a copy of their information as it stands to review the accuracy in the MIB database. Medical information will usually only be sent to the applicant’s physician. Essentially, the MIB must provide the applicant with what information it receives and what it can do with it.

What’s our take on the MIB? In a perfect world without fraud and omission (or better yet, the need for life insurance at all), we wouldn’t need the MIB. This is not that world and there is fraud and misrepresentation during the life insurance underwriting process. The problem is that this fraud is directly tied to the life insurance rates you will pay. Without the MIB, you would pay more to keep your life insurance policy in force due to a few bad apples that try to cheat the system. It’s a necessary evil in our view. In the end, if you are being honest and thorough on the insurance applications that you complete, the MIB is a non-issue.

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