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Health & Medical Insurance Plans Basic Facts: M.I.B.

Starting October 2, American consumers denied health, life or disability insurance will have the right to know when confidential information about them was disclosed to insurers by the nation's largest insurance reporting agency, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). Under an agreement with Federal Trade Commission staff that affects 99 percent of individual life insurance policies and 80 percent of all health and disability policies issued in the United States and Canada, members of MIB will comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act requirement that an individual be informed when a consumer report played any part in an insurer's decision to deny coverage or to charge a higher rate. Insurance companies will be required to provide the name and address of the consumer reporting agency that provided the information (MIB) and consumers will be entitled to receive a free copy of their report to verify that all information is correct.
This new consumer right is the result of an MIB rule approved by the FTC staff and agreed to by the reporting agency, MIB, and its 750 insurance company members, in June. MIB collects information on consumers and furnishes it to MIB members for use in the insurance underwriting process. In addition to an individual's credit history, data collected and reported by MIB may include medical conditions, driving records, criminal activity, participation in hazardous sports and other data.

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How do I get the best Health Insurance coverage?

When considering your options, know what youre getting medical insurance or a medical discount plan. If youre not sure, check with your state insurance commissioner to see if the company offering the plan is registered to sell insurance in your state. If the company is not registered to sell health insurance and you want to buy health insurance, consider shopping elsewhere. Remember that if you buy a health insurance plan, it generally covers a broad array of services, and pays you or your health care provider for your medical bills. If you buy a medical discount plan, you generally are paying for a list of providers and sellers who may be willing to offer discounts on some of their services, products or procedures. If youre interested in buying a medical discount plan, you should investigate the details before you pay any money. For example,

Look for a telephone number or website of the company youre considering doing business with so you can get more information.

Before you pay any money, ask the company for a list of providers who participate in its plan. Call the providers and ask about the services and discounts theyre offering.

If the plan doesnt provide a list of providers promptly, consider taking your business elsewhere.

Investigate the details of any plan carefully. Read the fine print, paying special attention to the refund policy. If a plan doesnt readily provide information and answers before you buy, it isnt likely to be responsive once they have your money.

If your usual medical or dental providers dont participate, see whether other doctors in your area accept the plan and will give you the discount the plan promoters promise. Some legitimate plans offer a get acquainted or initial consultation visit so you can meet a practitioner who participates in the plan before you commit to becoming a member.

Do the math. Try to calculate what your total payment for a discount plan will be for a given amount of time. You could be responsible for paying a substantial amount up front, in addition to monthly fees and other costs. The costs of the program may total more than the savings you anticipate. Indeed, you may be able to negotiate a similar discount directly with your provider, without having to join a medical discount program.

Call your local consumer protection office, state Attorney General, or Better Business Bureau to find out whether there are complaints about the business offering the discount plan.

Medical Discount Plans: Theyre Not Health Insurance

Affordable Health Care Plan
Pre-existing conditions? No problem!
No Deductible or Co-pays
Thousands of providers in our PPO network
Discounts up to 60%

Claims like these in magazines, on television, or on the Internet may sound like theyre selling health insurance. Probably not. Most of the time, theyre pitching a medical discount plan, card, or program, and chances are, theyre aimed at people who are in the market for ways to reduce the cost of health care.

Medical discount plans can be useful for some consumers looking to save money on health care. But theyre not the same as health insurance. Medical discount plans dont pay any of your health care costs; instead, they require you to pay a fee for a list of health care providers and sellers of health-related products who are willing to offer discounts to members of the plan.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nations consumer protection agency, some medical discount plans claim to provide big discounts from hundreds of providers for a wide range of services, from doctor visits and dental exams to hospital stays and prescription drugs. But many plans fail to make good on those claims. The FTC and many states have found that although some medical discount plans provide legitimate discounts that benefit their members, many take consumers money and offer very little in return.

HRSA's Consumer Education Program provides health-related information which will help you and your family live healthier lives. Whether you are a mom, dad, teen, grandparent or young adult, HRSA has information and resources that can improve your health and make a difference. HRSA also has information to assist care givers and health care providers. Living healthy really is an educated choice!

Health Literacy
HRSA's health literacy activities strive to educate and increase awareness about the need to improve health literacy among health care providers and patients. Understanding health information and communicating well with your health care providers will help assure a healthier tomorrow. Please visit HRSA's Health Literacy Web for more information.


Finding Health Care
For information about your state's program offering free or low-cost health insurance for your child or teen go to Insure Kids Now.

HRSAs Health Center Locator can help you find a health center in your community. These health centers serve all who walk through their doors, regardless of ability to pay.

Free or reduced health care is also available at some facilities nationwide through HRSAs Hill-Burton program.


Staying Healthy
On the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality's Consumers & Patients page, the publication entitled The Pocket Guide to Staying Healthy at 50+ has information on checkups, immunizations and adopting healthy habits for people over 50. HRSA's publication Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides information for families and children about how to stay healthy and active.

Promoting Organ Donation
You can give the Gift of Life by becoming an organ donor. More than 75,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant because too few of us are willing to be organ and tissue donors. HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has launched an Organ Donor initiative to promote organ donation and encourage people to make an informed decision about organ donation.

Promoting Health Careers
If you are interested in a health profession, HRSA's publication entitled The Allied Health Professions: Opportunities for Minority Students -- A Career Guidebook, 2000 may be helpful to you. This guidebook introduces students to allied health careers and provides information for those interested in pursuing such a career.

HRSA's Kids Into Health Careers campaign has information about encouraging children and young adults to pursue a rewarding career in the health care field. Financial aid information is also included.


Caring for People with HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health problem facing us all. HRSA provides HIV/AIDS information for clinicians who care for people living with HIV/AIDS. HRSA's Ryan White CARE Act program developed A Guide to the Clinical Care of Women with HIV.

Raising Healthy Children
To help parents raise healthy children, the HRSA-supported Bright Futures initiative provides expert advice and guidelines on practical ways to supervise the health of infants, children and adolescents ages 0-21. Bright Futures includes information on nutrition, oral health, mental health, physical activity and healthy families.

Preventing School Violence
Violence in our schools is a serious problem and bullying behavior is part of the problem. HRSA has created a "Lend A Hand - Stop Bullying Now" campaign with a Web site specifically designed for children to help educate them, their parents, and teachers about recognizing and understanding what bullying is and how to stop it. Visit our Web site at and meet all the great Webisode cartoon characters and learn how to stop bullying.


Improving Mental Health
Information on improving the mental health of children, young people and their families is available from the HRSA funded Center for School Mental Health Assistance at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Center for Mental Health in Schools at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Prenatal and Newborn Care
Order your free Health Diary: Myself, My Baby from HRSA Information Center. It contains information on fetal and child development, prenatal and newborn care and an immunization table. There is also a section where you can record and track your prenatal and pediatric appointments.

HRSAs Bureau of Primary Health Care has developed the Lower Extremity Amputation Prevention Program also known as the LEAP Program. Learn more about the steps you can take to reduce your risk of lower extremity amputation.


More Health Links

Government Sites:

Health Information
Healthfinder is a free guide to reliable health information where you can select online publications, clearinghouses, databases, web sites, support and self-help groups, as well as other government agencies and not-for-profit organizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the National Prevention Information Network which provides information and resources on HIV disease and treatment. They can be reached toll free at 1-800-458-5231. The HIV/AIDS Treatment Information Service which is sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, provides up to date HIV/AIDS treatment information and referrals including clinical trials. They can be reached toll free at 1-800-448-0440.

Alzheimers Disease
Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimers Caregiver Health) develops and tests new ways to help families manage the daily activities and stress of caring for people with Alzheimers disease.

Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, produced a very informative web page, Mind Over Matter Index, which explains to children in grades 5-9 the effects of drug abuse on the body and brain.

The Administration on Aging provides health information, elder care service locator, resource directory, safety tips, hotline for legal advice and much more for older people.

Food Safety
The Food and Drug Administration has good advice and information on a variety of consumer issues including food safety, foodborne illness, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and more. Visit the FDA Consumer Advice web page.

Medicare and Medicaid
Visit HHSs Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to learn about how these programs work and the services they provide.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Should you need or want information or assistance for a mental health or substance abuse problem, HHSs Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can help.

Safer Health Care
Each year its estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals because of lapses in patient safety. A Task Force, led by the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research, has developed Five Steps to Safer Health Care to help patients avoid medical errors and misunderstandings. They are:

  1. Speak up if you have questions.

  2. Keep a list of all medicines you take.

  3. Make sure you get the results of any test or procedure.

  4. Talk with your doctor and health care team about your options if you need hospital care.

  5. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery.


Non-Government Sites:

Alcohol Addiction
The Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc is an international organization dedicated to the support and recovery of families and friends of alcoholics. This self-help program is based on 12 steps towards personal growth and change. You can locate the nearest support group through this sites locator service.

Birth Defects
The March of Dimes has resources for reducing infant mortality, birth defects, prenatal care, and more.

The American Cancer Society provides information, support, and resources to answer your cancer related questions.

The American Diabetes Association can explain the difference between juvenile and adult diabetes, the warning signs, and the important role your diet and exercise play in avoiding and improving this diagnosis.

Heart Disease and Stroke
The American Heart Association has information on how to fight heart disease and stroke and even get lessons on CPR.

Mental Health
The National Mental Health Association provides helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. Find a local mental health association or health facility or browse news and events.

Poison Control    1-800-222-1222
Administered by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, this public service will instantly connect you to the nearest poison control center.

Suicide Prevention
The Suicide and Mental Health Association International (SMHAI) provides valuable information and guidance on suicidal behavior, awareness and treatment.


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