NU Online News Service, Dec. 13, 2004, 5:01 p.m. EST

A large insurer and an Illinois consulting firm are using new data standards to speed up group benefit plan administration.[@@]

The companies, MetLife Inc., New York, and Hewitt Associates Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., have based a quick, “near time” dental plan enrollment service on the HR-XML Benefits Enrollment standard.

The standard gives Hewitt an automated tool for transmitting enrollment data to MetLife. MetLife computers confirm each transaction that Hewitt sends and notifies Hewitt of any problems with the data, MetLife says.

The service cuts the lag between the time when workers sign up for dental benefits and the time when workers can use the benefits to a few hours, down from the traditional lag of several weeks, MetLife says.

MetLife and Hewitt can offer the service to joint Hewitt-MetLife clients that use the HR-XML standard and get their dental coverage from MetLife.

MetLife and Hewitt already are working on efforts to use the interface to speed up the enrollment process for products other than dental coverage.