Health Care

Delta grows beyond just dental

Delta Dental of Kansas has created a wholly owned subsidiary that ventures beyond dental benefits and allows it a way to grow.

The new subsidiary is Surency Life & Health Insurance Co. It is offering Surency Vision, Surency Dental and Surency Life products. Surency AdvantagePlus, a consumer-directed health-care product, will be launched in 2011, according to Sarah Patterson, Delta Dental's director of marketing and communications.

For now, Delta Dental and Surency share the same governance.

Linda Brantner, Delta Dental's president and CEO, said the subsidiary is the result of planning that began about four years ago.

Delta Dental is the largest and oldest dental benefits business in the state, Brantner said, and had a high percentage of market share, which gave it little room to grow. "We looked at our S curve and saw that we were getting to the top of that."

As the company "started talking about our future and what our strategy should be," she said, it kept in mind Jim Collins' "Good to Great" and his "hedgehog concepts" that the best companies find what they're passionate about, what they can be the best at, and what drives their economic engine.

Brantner said, "We came up with our hedgehog, and we just feel like we are the best administrator of group benefits." That led to the decision to create Surency to offer other products.

Surency Vision was the first product and signed its first client — Sprint Nextel — in January 2009. It now has about 100 groups and 102,000 lives, Patterson said.

Surency Vision is being marketed through the same distribution group as Delta Dental, Brantner said.

Surency Dental signed its first client April 1 and has three groups and 37 covered lives. It's looking for new customers among small companies in the Kansas City, Mo., area and is available only in Missouri, Brantner said.

"We cannot sell Surency Dental in Kansas today — and wouldn't," she said. "We wouldn't want to compete against ourselves."

Surency Life was just launched and has no clients to date.

Brantner said Surency is using a shared services model through a management agreement with Delta Dental of Kansas. "We're keeping it very, very separate," she said.

Surency has two employees of its own, one in Wichita and one in Kansas City, Patterson said, but plans to add more as the subsidiary grows.