Supreme Court’s Ruling Will Have Repercussions

The US Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 25 that the North Carolina Dental Board illegally suppressed competition when it told non-dentists to stop offering teeth-whitening services at mall kiosks.

The 6-3 decision came in the case of North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. The FTC had deemed the dental board’s actions an illegal suppression of competition. It’s common for states to establish regulatory boards consisting of members of the profession being regulated.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court runs contrary to the time-tested regulatory model used nationwide by states to regulate the learned professions. The decision focuses narrowly on antitrust law, not on the broader and far more important issue of protecting the public through effective regulation of medical practice,” said Stephen Keene, the North Carolina Medical Society’s (NCMS) General Counsel and Deputy Executive Vice President for Government Affairs and Health Policy.

Going forward, state professional regulatory boards like the North Carolina Medical Board may seek out more state supervision or change the makeup of their boards because of the decision. The AMA, which had filed a ‘friend-of-the-court’ brief in support of the Dental Board’s position, said after the Supreme Court’s ruling that it will work with physician groups to reinforce antitrust protections for activities conducted under state authority to protect patients.

“The AMA agrees with Justice Alito, speaking for the three dissenting justices, that today’s decision ‘will spawn confusion’ by creating far-reaching effects on the jurisdiction of states to regulate medicine and protect patient safety,” AMA President Robert Wah said in the AMA’s statement.

Watch future Bulletins for more information on how this decision will play out in North Carolina.


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