Rx for health-insurance woes

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You probably are aware that there are three credit bureaus that sell your credit reports to companies that want to know how you handle your money. However, you might not know that there also are three health-insurance bureaus—Medical Information Bureau, Ingenix and Milliman—that report on your health to insurance companies, which can use the information to hike your premiums or deny you coverage. Each of those outfits has different policies for collecting and storing information, and they hang on to it for 5 to 7 years, depending on the agency.

You can try to combat premium hikes and coverage refusals, and perhaps reduce your costs, by checking your health report for errors. Insurance sales agents tell us that they have succeeded in reversing denials of coverage that resulted from errors or outdated information.

If you are applying for a new health-insurance plan, you should curtail or postpone your use of nonessential prescription medication and medical procedures until you are accepted, advises Alex Maybaum of AnnualMedicalReport.com, which is an organization that seeks to improve privacy protections for personal medical information. That likely will help you to reduce your insurance costs, he says, because excessive use of nonessential prescription medications drives up the cost of policies by roughly 25 percent, or $500 to $1,000, annually.

“Underwriters also don’t like to see unfinished business on the applicant’s records,” warns Jan B. Sherman of BenefitsTamer.com, which provides advice on health-insurance benefits. So ask your doctor whether not-completed procedures are necessary and to note that in your medical records.

Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your health report annually from each company.