Debate over dentistry

Date posted: July 11, 2012

There’s a controversy playing out in North Carolina in the halls of the legislature as well as on the airwaves. It concerns the role of the State Dental Board in approving management contracts for the state dentists. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden explains.

“Well …, the issue here is that there are many dentists who say, hey, they want to concentrate on doing dental work. They don’t want to deal with the management of their practice. And, of course, it can get very complicated with insurance and so forth. So many dentists will hire a professional management group to do all of those administrative duties.

“The proposal that’s before the General Assembly in North Carolina is to allow the State Dental Board to regulate those management agreements. And some have been concerned that some of the management groups may be coming from outside the state; they’re part of big corporate management groups. And some argue, hey, these manager groups may result in the dentist perhaps not providing the quality of care to their patients because they’ve got to, as some people say, put profits before people.

“So that’s the issue. It’s not a clear-cut issue. And I’m not going to solve it here, but I think the things that need to be considered are, number one, are there different kinds of management agreements? Number two, if you do have a restriction on what kinds of companies could provide management agreements to dentists, what would that do, number one, to the price of dental care and, number two, what would it do to the quality of dental care?

“So, I think there are some empirical questions that have to be answered here. But this could be a big deal for the dentistry industry in North Carolina, but hopefully we can solve the issue by looking at these pertinent questions and applying empirical findings to them.”

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