Two Carriers Cited For Intranet ExcellenceMilwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc. were among 10 global corporations recognized for their development of dynamic intranet sites. The awards were delivered by Nielsen Norman Group, which names corporations for exemplary intranet design and usability within its "Ten Best Intranets of the Year" competition. Out of 118 submissions to the contest, each succeeded in becoming a communications tool widely used by employees. "All of the winning intranets are being used to improve communication and efficiencies in organizations. They are not just holding-places for announcements and the company HR handbook," says Kara Pernice Coyne, director of research at Nielsen Norman Group. Common themes across several of the top 10 intranets include: Customization, single sign-on and an international focus.

InsureMyTrip Adds Medical Evacuation Coverage

In conjunction with Birmingham, Ala.-based MEDJET Assistance, a provider of medical evacuation coverage, InsureMyTrip.com has added medical evacuation coverage to its offerings. MEDJET is an annual membership program providing air medical transportation to its members should they become hospitalized due to accident or illness, virtually anywhere in the world. MEDJET Assistance annual membership also includes domestic protection anywhere over 150 miles from home. Over the past year, online travel insurance aggregator InsureMyTrip has had an increasing number of inquiries from clients asking for stand-alone medical evacuation coverage," according to Peter Evans, executive vice president of InsureMyTrip. "Although most trip cancellation policies provide some medical evacuation benefits, we found that many of our clients wanted a stand-alone product to follow them in their travels providing greater overall coverage.

Hartford Offers Agents Cyber-Risk Education

Recognizing that more education is needed to help business customers understand and protect against their technology-related exposures, Hartford, Conn.-based The Hartford Financial Services Group is offering a free online course to insurance agents. The course, which defines e-business risk broadly as any process a business organization conducts using technology, helps identify and address some key coverage questions that have emerged as a result of the surge in Internet usage. It also discusses many of the most common e-business exposures. After completing the course, participants should understand some of the impacts of the Internet on commercial insurance exposures; identify where traditional property/casualty forms fall short in addressing clients' e-business coverage needs; recognize some common e-business exposures; and suggest risk management procedures clients can implement to control their e-business exposures. The course is available online and at no cost and can be accessed at The Hartford's agent education Web site at www.hsie-campus.com.

BenefitsCorp Gets Personal

Greenwood Village, Colo.-based BenefitsCorp Inc. is enabling its plan participants to personalize their Web site home pages. "We developed this feature to provide participants with a one-stop Web page that allows them to more conveniently manage their account," says Charlie Nelson, president of BenefitsCorp. Now, participants can view their breakdown of balance by investment option in a chart and a graphical presentation without any additional clicks. BenefitsCorp also is moving to a two-column home page design format in response to polls of plan sponsors and participants who said they wanted to view more information without vertical scrolling. Another added feature enables participants to view their individual rate of return for any two dates within the past eighteen months. BenefitsCorp is also designing its next Web-site enhancement: comparative individual rate of return, which will provide participants with a general approximation of overall recent performance of their account-and a comparison of their performance to others with similar investment objectives.

Blues Plan Offers EFT to Providers

Hospitals and physician organizations that submit at least 90% of their claims electronically can now receive their payments in electronic funds transfers (EFT) through a program sponsored by Columbia, S.C.-based BlueCrossBlueShield of South Carolina. Electronic claims submission speeds the claims process, and adding EFT into this process will expedite payment to doctors' offices and hospitals. BlueCross estimates that using EFT will give physicians a three-day advantage. Claims can be submitted electronically through several methods, including Companion Technologies PAID system, via the secure My Insurance Manager section of BlueCross' Web sites at www.SouthCarolinaBlues.com and www.Companion-Healthcare.com, or through third-party systems.

Report Shows More Hurricanes Probable

Ten years ago, Hurricane Andrew was the costliest disaster ever. If Andrew (a Category 4 storm) hit Florida today, losses would be twice as much-but not as much as if a Category 5 hurricane hit five other major metropolitan areas, according to insure.com, East Hartford, Conn. Insure.com published a report that shows if Andrew roared through South Florida today, the $15.5 billion of insured losses incurred in 1992 would now likely total more than $30 billion because the South Florida population has increased and wealth in the region has grown. The cities most vulnerable to cataclysmic hurricane damage are Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York City and Tampa. But the most devastation would be caused if a Category 5 hurricane hit Miami and then veered off into New Orleans, causing severe flooding along the Gulf Coast. Under this scenario, insure.com estimates that the nation could suffer two $100 billion losses at once.

Allstate Adds Online Transactions For Producers

Allstate Financial Group, a business unit of Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Corp., has launched www.AccessAllstate.com, a Web site that uses new technology and functionality to provide Allstate producers with online financial and administrative transactional capabilities. With the introduction of the new site, Allstate producers who are registered to sell for Lincoln Benefit Life will be able to conduct business 24 hours a day. They can use the site to service accounts with inquiries and policy details, account and sub-account information, pending/in-force status and statements, transactional capabilities for address and billing changes, premium allocations, fund transfers and rebalancing, and loans. The site also provides forms and product support including search, download and catalog forms, as well as product rules, fund information and announcements. Finally, the site offers sales support with marketing materials and sales tips, financial tools, illustrations and projections.

Zurich Surety Provides Agent Access

Schaumburg, Ill.-based Zurich North America Surety has completed the pilot stage of its Zurich Surety Express online platform. The platform enables insurance agents to rate, quote and issue commercial and contract surety bonds directly from the Zurich Web site at www.zurichna.com. Agents in 12 states-Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois-now have access to Zurich Surety Express as part of a nationwide rollout, which is expected to be completed by year-end. "Technology is the real hero here, effectively removing inefficiencies and streamlining the surety bond process from hours to less than five minutes," says Bill Cheatham, president of Zurich North America Surety. Zurich Surety Express provides agents with a "single-touch" system that uses advanced Internet technology to simplify underwriting and distribution.

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