FTC unhappy with legislative dental bill

The Federal Trade Commission calls a bill restricting how dentists can organize their practices "unnecessary."

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Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Federal Trade Commission is weighing into a fight among dentists at the North Carolina General Assembly. 
LaRoque had asked the commission to review a bill that would regulate the kind of business arrangements dentists could enter into. Specifically, the bill would limit the structure of dental service organizations, which run the back office for dentists.

"Restrictions on the ability of dentists to run their practices by contracting out the management functions provided by the DSOs may reduce competition and consumer choice by preventing the emergence and expansion of new, more efficient forms of professional practice," the staff of the commission wrote to Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, on May 25.

The bill has provoked a battle both on the airwaves and in the halls of the General Assembly, where lobbyists for either side have been haggling over the bill for most of the past year. The two sides break down roughly between dentists allied with dental service corporations (also called dental service organizations) and those in private practice who side with the N.C. Dental Society.
On the large group side, dentists argue dental service organizations let them concentrate on medicine and cut down barriers for new dentists looking to go into practice. Those allied with the Dental Society say they are worried about the quality of dental care. They have been pointing to stories like this one from Bloomberg, which shows that some investor-owned dental groups create assembly line practices designed to tap Medicaid for profits. 

LaRoque plans a Thursday morning news conference to tout the FTC letter, saying he hopes it will help kill the bill for the year.

Those following the bill say it appears stuck in negotiations between the two sides. A committee formed to negotiate a compromise this spring never came to a recommendation.

"They're trying to come to an agreement, but sometimes doing nothing is the best option," LaRoque said Wednesday night. "We just don't need this legislation."



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