Business & Real Estate

New York insurer says it will acquire Sacramento’s Premier Access Insurance Co.

A major New York-based dental insurer with pre-Civil War roots says it has a deal to acquire a Sacramento firm that has grown dramatically from a one-man dental practice started here 25 years ago.

Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, which was founded in 1860 and now bills itself as one of the largest dental insurers in the United States, on Wednesday announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire locally owned Premier Access Insurance Co.

The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Started in 1989, Premier Access provides dental coverage and other care to employers and individuals in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Virginia and Mexico. It has more than 634,000 members, serves more than 5,000 employer plans and operates 18 dental centers.

On Wednesday, in response to emailed questions, Guardian spokeswoman Jeanette Volpi said: “There will be no immediate changes to either company’s operating model, and we do not anticipate there will be any immediate changes to staffing as a result of the acquisition.”

Volpi added: “Premier Access will retain its brand for the near future. The (Premier Access) Dental Centers will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian, operating independently, and will maintain their current brands.”

Premier was started 25 years ago by Reza Abbaszadeh, an Iranian immigrant and dentist, who opened a solo dental practice on Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento. Abbaszadeh is the current president and CEO of Premier and its Access Dental Plans.

Calls seeking comment from Premier Access officials on Wednesday were not returned.

Guardian, which currently covers more than 8 million employees and their families, said the acquisition will strengthen its dental network for preferred provider organization and HMO plans in the Western states where Premier currently operates.

The company said that acquiring Premier Access also enables more access to state-run Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program markets, which are expected to grow significantly due to expanded eligibility for consumers under the federal Affordable Care Act.

In June last year, Premier Access was one of six insurance firms selected by Covered California to offer pediatric dental coverage on California’s new health care exchange, launched as part of the federal ACA.

“ACA is changing the dental benefits landscape. It is the responsibility of insurers such as Guardian to deliver cost-effective, quality dental care to more Americans where and how they are looking to be served,” said Dong Ahn, Guardian’s executive vice president, in a statement. Guardian’s acquisition of Premier Access will expand “our reach to serve more customers who are seeking access to dental insurance through Medicaid and the (state) exchanges.”

Guardian has about 5,000 U.S. employees and provides dental coverage for 115,000 U.S. companies. Premier Access has more than 600 employees.