Six companies have applied to the Iowa Insurance Division to offer medical insurance plans through the state's new health care exchange, or marketplace, the division announced today.


The companies are Coventry Health Care of Iowa Inc., CoOportunity Health, Avera Health Plans, Gunderson Health Plan Inc., Sanford Health and Health Alliance Midwest Inc.


Iowa's federally facilitated state health marketplace will begin enrolling new members on Oct. 1 for coverage in 2014, under the provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The intent of the state marketplaces is to provide additional affordable choices for small businesses and individuals that don't have health insurance coverage.


The result:  two to four health companies, each depending on location, may be offering multiple plans from which most Iowans can choose if they elect coverage through the marketplace. Iowans with income levels below 400 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible for a tax credit toward the cost of coverage through the marketplace.


Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which covers nearly 1.8 million Iowans, announced this morning that it would not participate in the exchange until 2015.


Coventry, which bases its Iowa operations in Urbandale, and CoOportunity, based in West Des Moines, are expected to offer statewide coverage for individual health care coverage. CoOportunity also applied to offer statewide and small-group plans.


Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera and La Crosse, Wis.-based Gunderson both applied to offer individual and small employer group plans for smaller regional markets.


Fargo and Sioux Falls-based Sanford and Urbana, Ill.-based Health Alliance Midwest have applied to offer small-group plans only.


Four other companies have applied to offer stand-alone dental plans. Those are The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, Dentegra Insurance Co., Delta Dental Plan of Iowa and BEST Life and Health Insurance Co.

Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said the Iowa Insurance Division will deliver its recommendations to the federal agencies by July 31.