House budget negotiations have been the main focus thus far in the second full week of the North Carolina legislature’s short session and one thing is clear – that, despite the best efforts of Gov. Bev Perdue and Walter Dalton, the final product will not include a tax or fee increase. While this is good news for taxpayers in the Old North State, there is still some problematic legislation pending with SB 655/HB 698 remaining under consideration.

in response to a request from Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-10) the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently weighed in on the matter. In a letter sent to Rep. LaRoque of May 25th, FTC staff outlined its conclusion regarding SB 655/HB 698:

“We are concerned that the Bill may deny consumers of dental services the benefits of competition spurred by the efficiencies…including the potential for lower prices, improved access to care, and greater choice. Underserved communities, such as the 78 of 100 counties in North Carolina that are listed as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, may be particularly affected…Therefore, we urge you to consider whether the Bill’s restrictions and grants of regulatory power…are necessary to protect consumers. If not, the North Carolina legislature should reject the Bill.”

The FTC staff comment also explains the redundancy of many provisions in the bill:

"Given that the Board already oversees health and safety issues as part of the licensure regime that governs all dentists in the state…it does not appear that the Bill would enhance the Board's ability to ensure patient safety.”

ATR agrees with the FTC’s assessment of this misguided piece of legislation, which echoes similar critiques made by others, such as the John Locke Foundation. As ATR has already noted, SB 655/HB 698 is a protectionist, anti-free enterprise piece of legislation that seeks to use the power of the state to eliminate competition in the dental industry. Passage of this legislation would result in reduced access to care and increased costs for North Carolinians. With health care costs set rise as a result of the federal tax changes and other policy reforms scheduled to take effect at the end of the year, it would behoove NC legislators to avoid adding insult to injury with policies that raise the cost of dental care.

North Carolinians already contend with increased costs as a result of limited access to dental care. The state currently ranks 47th in the nation in terms of dentists per capita. ATR urges members of the NC House to avoid exacerbating this problem by rejecting SB 655/HB 698.

For a copy of the ATR’s letter on this matter, click here