FTC Staff Advises Louisiana Legislature That Amended Bill Would Further Restrict Competition to Provide Dental Care to States Most Vulnerable Children

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Federal Trade Commission staff have filed a comment stating that the amended version of proposed Louisiana House Bill 687, if enacted, would further restrict competition to provide dental care to underserved children in the state, without providing any countervailing benefits to consumers. The staff believes that recent amendments to the bill would restrict the market to dentists already providing in-school services and would raise additional competition concerns. Accordingly, in the comment to State Representative Sam Jones, the FTC staff urges the Louisiana Legislature to reject the bill.

On May 1, 2009, FTC staff submitted a similar comment to State Representative Tim Burns (which can be found on the Commission’s Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/05/ladentistry.shtm). The additional staff comment sent today specifically addresses amendments to the bill that were made after May 1, 2009. Staff is concerned that the bill with the new amendments will impose new restraints on competition by restricting the provision of in-school dental services within the state. For example, with a limited exception, the bill would prohibit dentists from offering in-schools services unless they have provided services for at least six months during the past five years even though such services would expand and improve dental care.

Under the amended bill, dentists who have not previously offered in-school care may do so only in communities that are “underserved” by dentists. The State Board of Dentistry, however, determines whether an area is “underserved.” As the Board is composed mainly of dentists, the bill would therefore authorize competitors to determine whether or not other in-school dentists could compete in the market. By regulating the entry of in-school dentistry under these conditions, the bill would likely prevent many children from receiving the benefits of in-school dental care, according to the comment.

Finally, the comment states that a proposed amendment by Rep. Rickey L. Nowlin that would allow dentists anywhere in the state to examine the records of any patient who receives in-school dental services raises privacy concerns with respect to these types of health care records, and also raises competition concerns because as dentists would have the ability to impose higher operating costs on competing in-school providers. The FTC comment provides suggested modifications that may alleviate these privacy and competition concerns.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the comment was 4-0. A copy of the comment can be found on the FTC’s Web site at XX and as a link to this press release. (FTC File No. X090009; the staff contact is Gustav P. Chiarello, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2633.)

Copies of the document mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

(FYI 23.5.2009.wpd)

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