North Carolina is one of the top battleground states for the 2012 election. Ads are already flooding the airwaves from Cape Hatteras to Cashiers and, with the DNC being held in Charlotte, the state is expected to become a political fever pitch over the next few months.
A major topic during the campaign season will be the policies that President Obama has signed into law, such as the 20 tax increases in ObamaCare alone, that will drive up the cost of health care. Indeed, Republicans who hope to pick up three congressional seats in the Tar Heel State will make this a major theme of their campaigns. Yet, in order for North Carolina Republicans to avoid muddling their message and contradicting themselves, Republican state legislators would do well to reject Senate Bill 655, legislation currently pending in the General Assembly that would drive up the cost of dental care for North Carolinians.
Yesterday, Americans for Tax Reform sent the following letter to all members of the North Carolina House, urging them to reject SB 655, legislation that uses the power of government to stifle competition and drive up consumer costs:
21 May 2012
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), I write today urging you to reject Senate Bill 655. If passed, this bill would add onerous new regulations restricting the ability of dentists in North Carolina to engage in free enterprise and administer their practices more efficiently. Simply put, this bill is an attempt to use the power of the government to eliminate competition. The effects of SB 655 will harm consumers and taxpayers in the state by limiting access to care, restricting competition, increasing costs, destroying jobs and discouraging investment.
As it stands, North Carolina faces a shortage of dentists, ranking just 47th nationally in dentists per capita, based on data from the American Dental Association (ADA) and US Census Bureau. The result is less access to needed care and higher costs. Dentists in North Carolina earn 25 percent more than the national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This costs North Carolina consumers over $250 million more in additional costs every year, with the effects being the same as that of a hidden tax: increased costs and less disposable income for the citizens of North Carolina. SB 655 would exacerbate these current problems.
Given the rising costs of health care across the United States and the resulting burden on employers and taxpayers, states should look to promote more efficient models of delivering healthcare. SB 655 would prohibit dental practices from contracting with Dental Service Organizations (DSOs), which allow dentists to focus exclusively on providing care, resulting in both high quality care and lower costs for patients.
DSOs do not own dental practices, and the Dental Board already has the regulatory authority required to ensure that all dentists deliver high quality care to their patients, irrespective of how they choose to contract for administrative services. This is a broadly accepted model utilized by many other medical professions, including emergency room physicians, oncologists, anesthesiologists and hospitalists. In a recent statement, the ADA wrote: “States should implement administrative reforms to cut red tape that impedes dentists from delivering care and patients from receiving it.” SB 655 flies in the face of this advice.
As the John Locke Foundation noted in its analysis of SB 655, North Carolina lawmakers “should be looking at ways to expand dental care in North Carolina, not restrict it. If a management company is interested in assuming purchasing, billing and administrative duties and a dentist wants to spend more time on patient care, they ought to be allowed to work out whatever arrangement works best for them.” ATR agrees whole-heartedly with this astute assessment.
While many in the dental industry support SB 655, many other dentists, consumers, taxpayers, employers, and investors in North Carolina would be harmed by this legislation. Rather than consider legislation that stifles competition and drives up consumer costs, North Carolina lawmakers should instead be looking for ways to make the state more economically competitive. As such, I urge you to oppose SB 655. If you have any questions, please contact ATR’s Patrick Gleason at (202) 785-0266 or [email protected]
Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform