Take Care Going PaperlessThere are many potential benefits for the independent agency system as carriers begin to eliminate the paper sent to agents and replace it with electronic information. But success will be determined by how well carriers, agencies and vendors communicate with one another and carry out their own responsibilities during the conversion process. This is according to the the Agents Council for Technology (ACT), which is affiliated with the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA), Alexandria, Va.

ACT suggests that carriers advise their agents of any intent to move in a paperless direction at least one year in advance. Carriers should advise agents to implement the appropriate download, real-time information inquiry transactions, and electronic information management within their agency systems. Furthermore, carriers should provide agents at least a six-month testing period to enable them to discover any inadequacies in the carrier's electronic approach in time for the carrier to fix them.

E-Signatures For 401(k) Clients

The Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa, has introduced an electronic signature feature to 401(k) prototype plan sponsor clients. Available at the Principal Sponsor Service Center at www.principal.com, the system enables clients that have adopted the 401(k) prototype plan (approximately 17,500 clients) to access amended documents and restatements online, and review and approve amended documents by e-signature. Clients also can access an updated Directions Guidebook for fast answers to questions, and all online documents are available print-on-demand.

Course For Billing And Coding

Delmar Learning, an Albany, N.Y.-based educational resources provider and part of The Thomson Corp., Toronto, has released an online course called "Understanding Health Insurance, A Guide to Professional Billing." Written by JoAnn C. Rowell and Michelle A. Green, the course is based upon the best-selling print edition and is designed to help medical assistants, medical insurance specialists, and health information technicians acquire basic skills in health insurance claims preparation. The online course includes instruction on plan options, carrier requirements, state and federal regulations, abstracting relevant information from source documents, completing claim forms accurately, and coding diagnoses and procedures. The course can be used for self-study or integrated into a classroom setting for college or continuing education credit.

Tips For Recovering Damages

T he Denver-based Web site, e-Legislative-action.com has launched a special section called "Hot Tips," which provides information to citizens for recovering compensation for damage to auto vehicles. "In many cases, a vehicle that has been damaged in a motor vehicle accident is worth less than it was before the accident, even if the damage is repaired," says Rene Ryman, founder of the Internet site. That's because the used-car market considers vehicles that have been involved in accidents as less valuable than those that have never been in an accident, due to the possibility of undetected or unrepairable damage. Many insurance companies refuse to pay for this loss in value, Ryman says. "The Jury Instructions and information we provide on e-Legislativeaction.com helped me recover the loss in value on my vehicle when I was in an accident," she says. "I want to share it with others so that they may receive the same benefit."

Portal For Hospitals

Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, New York, has added another portal to its Web site with the launch of Internet-based services for hospitals and ancillary facilities. This new service enables facilities to check patient eligibility and benefits coverage by logging on to www.empireblue.com and clicking "Facilities" on the menu bar. Currently, the 1,500 facilities that contract with the health insurer can log on to determine patient eligibility, get member benefits, customize their account, and add or delete facility personnel log-on IDs.

FFIC Rolls Out eGlassMate

Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., Novato, Calif., has begun its national rollout of eGlassMate, a Web-based system from San Diego-based Mitchell International that provides tools to manage auto glass claims from first notice of loss to payment. EGlassMate has expanded Fireman's Fund's glass repair vendors from about 300 to 6,500 locations. Customers and agents are able to find a Preferred Shop using the Glass Shop Lookup tool on the Fireman's Fund Web site. Customers provide their policy number to the glass shop, and the shop verifies coverage and provides invoicing and claim reporting information to the insurer through eGlassMate. Performing these functions over the Internet reduces faxing, mailing, phone calls and re-entering of data for the insurer and the shops.

LOMA P&C Courses Online

In addition to the more than 100 courses covering life and health insurance, retirement planning, money management, and securities and suitability, LOMALearn Online now provides courses in property and casualty insurance. Atlanta-based LOMA is offering the P&C courses in alliance with Emerald Learning Solutions, which is part of Emerald Publications, a subsidiary of Fiserv Inc., Brookfield, Wis.

American Modern Goes For Pros

Farmers Insurance Co., Topa Insurance Group, and Sentry Insurance Co. have re-signed as subscribers to the Insurance Professionals Network, a division of Kessler Professional Search, Latham, N.Y. American Modern Insurance also has signed on as a subscriber to the site, located at www.insurance-pros.net. They join Atlantic Mutual, Chubb Insurance, First Cardinal Insurance, Western Security Surplus, Union Standard Insurance, United National Insurance, NAS Surety, and The Westfield Group. As subscribers, these insures are able to search for professionals to fill their critical positions.

Worksite Enrollment Made Easy

Omaha, Neb.-based Jefferson Pilot Financial and its employee benefits division, Benefit Partners, has developed a proprietary software system that enables fast customization of worksite enrollment forms and benefit summaries. The system, called STEPS (Simplified Total Enrollment Processing System), uses an electronic census provided by the employer or broker to populate and customize enrollment forms. Because there is no data re-entry, the risk of typographical or mail merge errors is virtually eliminated. As an added benefit, the forms are color-coded with yellow shading to indicate specific areas that the employee is required to complete. In most cases, the employee simply indicates the coverage he or she wishes to purchase and signs the form. The system also rounds the designated premium amount per payroll deduction for the specific billing period selected. This enables group administrators to reconcile their payroll deduction amounts with their monthly billings statements more easily.

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