The title, “Does Regulation Affect Economic Outcomes? The Case of Dentistry,” is from a 1999 article by Morris Kleiner.  Dr. Kleiner is an economist at the University of Minnesota who has studied how regulations and occupational licensing effect quality and cost.

Abstract:

This study examines the role of variations in occupational licensing policies in improving the quality of services provided to consumers and the effect of restrictive regulations on the prices of certain services and on the earnings of practitioners. Theory suggests that more restrictive licensing may raise prices, but that it may also raise demand by reducing uncertainty about the quality of the services. This paper uses unique data on the dental health of incoming Air Force personnel to analyze empirically the effects of varying licensing stringency among the states. We find that tougher licensing does not improve outcomes, but it does raise prices and earnings of practitioners. Our results cast doubt on the principal public interest argument in favor of more stringent state licensing practices.

 

Wow!  No improved outcomes, yet higher prices.

In another article, “A License for Protection,” Dr. Kleiner outlines the economic and political benefits to practitioners (supply reduction) and legislators (protecting the populace – good for re-election) for increased regulation.  Notably, “federal lawsuits have been brought against dentists who have sought to restrain the work of hygienists when the restraint could influence federal government programs.”  Dr. Keiner suggests ways to enhance “consumer protection’ while stimulating competition; sometimes certification is less restrictive than licensure.

Again I am reminded of, “When a fellow says, “It hain’t the money, but th’ principle o’ the thing,” it’s th’ money.” Kin Hubbard 1926

Hopefully, Dental Therapists and other stakeholders can take some of these insights and use them create a stronger case for mid level dental providers.

 

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