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Private, Affordable Care for the Poor? Not in the United States of Protectionism!

By: Daniel Duarte - @dduart3 - Jun 9, 2014, 10:48 am

In 2013, an Arkansas orthodontist, Dr. Ben Burris, felt he needed to give something back to his community. He began offering low-cost teeth cleanings at his orthodontic offices throughout the state. He charged a fraction of what other dentists ask for the same basic service, in an effort to expand dental care to low-income families.

One would think this would be greeted with enthusiasm and support from his colleagues, but instead, Arkansas dentists told him he had to stop his program.

As the Institute for Justice reports:

Within weeks, Ben was told by the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners that he was breaking the law and that his license would be revoked if he continued offering the cleanings. Arkansas prohibits licensed dental specialists like orthodontists from doing work outside of their specialty even though they are qualified to practice general dentistry.

Was Burris unqualified for the job? Not at all. Ben Burris is a doctor of dental surgery, master of dental science, and did a three-year dental residency at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. He is a licensed dentist and orthodontist in Arkansas.

No patient had ever complained about Burris, nor was there ever any allegation that the doctor had endangered, much less harmed, anyone. The problem, simply put, is that he was upsetting the de facto cartel imposed by the Arkansas Board and going around regulations dealing with dentist specializations that limit supply, and thus drive up prices for patients.

On May 27, 2014, Burris joined the Institute for Justice to file a federal lawsuit to challenge the ban. For the time being, however, hundreds of poor families are being prevented from access to affordable dental and medical care by ridiculous protectionist rules.

Daniel Duarte Daniel Duarte

Daniel Duarte is an editor and translator with the PanAm Post. Based in Paraguay, he is currently finishing a bachelor's degree in philosophy, after moving back from France. Follow @dduart3.