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Dental insurers seek to sell coverage on MNsure

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Little known fact: people buying health insurance through MNsure, the state's new exchange, will also be able to purchase dental coverage.

The federal health care law requires that pediatric dental coverage be available through the state-based exchanges.

State officials have said nine insurers have sought approval to sell health plans on the state's new online marketplace, MNsure. The state is required by law not to disclose the plans until they take effect in October, but it now appears three of the companies have submitted dental-only insurance policies.

Minneapolis-based Delta Dental has submitted two pediatric plans to the state's commerce department for approval. But the insurer also submitted eight plans aimed at adults, said Joe Lally, vice president of government relations and compliance for Delta Dental.

For Delta, the exchange represents new business.

"We think it's a new opportunity, a new market and a new distribution system," Lally said. "While time will tell how it will all work out, we want to be there at the beginning, participate, and see how it will work."

New York-based Guardian Life Insurance Company of America also aims to sell pediatric and adult coverage on MNsure.

Officials of Delta and Guardian say they hope their products will be available to both consumers and small businesses shopping for insurance on MNsure. The commerce department is reviewing Delta and Guardian's proposals.

San Francisco-based Dentegra initially submitted dental insurance products to be sold on MNsure in 2014. But because MNsure's launch is on a compressed timeline, and because products need to be customized to each state, Dentegra decided to wait until 2015.

"Pulling out of the exchange for the time being is not a step that we took lightly," Dentegra spokeswoman Elizabeth Risberg said. "We just want to make sure that our products are completely consumer friendly. We're concerned that if we rush the implementation in Minnesota, that we might end up with a plan that didn't fully meet consumers' needs."

Risberg added that Dentegra also is delaying participation in some other states' exchanges.