Six weeks ago I pointed out a Seattle Times op-ed calling on the state to allow for midlevel dental care providers who might improve the affordability and availability of basic dental care in Washington. Like I said at the time, this is a wonderful idea because “allowing trained professionals to take on these relatively minor issues could bring quality care to communities that currently do not have access to a dentist, while also freeing up dentists' time to focus on the cases where their skills and expertise are most needed.”
Well you didn’t think the dentists’ cartel (which realizes significant financial gain as a result of government-enforced limits on competition) would take such a challenge lying down, did you?
Today’s Seattle Times has the predictable response from Danny Warner, the president of the Washington State Dental Association: “Don’t increase competition by allowing for more service providers – just make more money available for the existing dentists!”
Warner claims that the problem is not a shortage of dentists, but a shortage of funding. Oh, really? Because the federal government currently designates parts of 34 of Washington’s 39 counties as “Health Professional Shortage Areas for Dental Care.”
Warner states that it would be better to focus on “employing more young, unemployed dentists looking for work in this struggling economy.” Given that the unemployment rate for dentists is currently 0.8 percent – among the lowest unemployment rates of any profession – one wonders where, exactly, these “young, unemployed dentists” might be found. I'm sure that the 8.2 percent of Washingtonians who can't find a job are very concerned about them, though.
Warner also failed to note that the median salary for dentists in Washington is $166,000, which is $23,000 higher than the national median salary for dentists and more than three times higher than the median household income for this state’s citizens. This kind of thing tends to happen when the government severely restricts the number of people who can provide services in an industry.
Perhaps Warner could go into more detail about how making more money available for existing dentists is a better policy option than lowering costs for everyone and increasing the availability of dental care by creating job opportunities for hundreds or thousands of midlevel providers. Because from where I sit, his argument looks an awful lot like shameless rent seeking.
In the meantime, this video is an example of how Warner says his group is working to change kids' behaviors in regard to preventative dental care. I'm sure it will be very successful.