Dental therapists not free market solution to dental woes

When healthcare reform is invoked in politics, there’s one area left out too often: our teeth.

According to the CDC, only 64 percent of adults had a dental appointment last year. In Broward County, 19 percent of adults didn’t see a dentist in 2017 because of cost. That’s appalling.

And in more rural parts of the country, dentists are hard to find.

It’s a worrying situation and one that Florida lawmakers should address. One proposed solution is the idea of midlevel providers called dental therapists. But they miss the mark.

Dental therapists, unlike dentists, require less training and education, and could presumably offer their services at a lower cost, even though they only perform a fraction of the procedures learned by dentists.

Thus far, the country’s only functional dental therapist program is in Minnesota, created in 2011. There are currently 86 licensed dental therapists in the state, close to 60 percent of whom work in the most populous metro area, and a third at nonprofit clinics.

However, the same issues in dental care persist: costs are high, there aren’t enough dental professionals in rural areas, and insurance is hard to come by. There are still 128 areas with workforce shortages and insurance reimbursement is limited.

Recent polls conducted in Arizona and Wisconsin found that 68 percent and 57 percent of adults in those states respectively oppose dental therapists as the “be all fix all” solution to our dental woes.

States should start recognizing out-of-state licenses for dentists. Too often, these restrictions are a barrier to dentists educated around the country who wish to move back home.

Second, states should consider debt-relief plans for enticing dental students. States like Minnesota have already boosted their loan forgiveness, loan repayment, and scholarship programs in hopes of bringing in top dental talent, and Florida is set to do the same in this legislature.

We should empower dental hygienists, who make up roughly a third of the dental workforce in this country. Allowing them more flexibility in preventative care could go a long way.

For activists who rightly abhor occupational licensing, it should be emphasized that dental therapists are not akin to hair braiders, tattoo artists, or stylists retroactively slapped with unreasonable labor restrictions. Unlike these jobs, dental therapists are purely a creation of government mandates and bureaucratic tinkering rather than market demand. There are no roving bands of dental therapists operating without licenses.

Proof of this is found in the state of Wisconsin, were the governor is asking for $1 millionto fund the dental therapy program next year. These programs cost money, and they won’t be a silver bullet. We need more in the toolbox than just creating a new provider level and government program that adds its own costs.

Yaël Ossowski is an economic journalist who served as Florida Bureau Chief of Watchdog.org from 2012-2015. He’s currently deputy director of the Washington-based Consumer Choice Center.

Source: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-com-dentaly-therapists-20190220-story.html

End North Carolina’s archaic monopoly on liquor sales

When it comes to alcohol policy, North Carolina is more an outlier than exemplar.

Though ours is among 17 states with an alcohol control system, where the state retains monopoly control of part of the alcohol trade, it stands out as one of the most restrictive. Private liquor stores are banned, prices are fixed, and a Prohibition-era mentality still pervades the plethora of alcohol regulations overseen by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

There are 168 individual local boards that control liquor, a bizarre and fractured system in which politicians and administrators determine everything from prices on bottles of tequila to where they should be placed in ABC stores and how much to stock.

The state ABC system brought in $1 billion last year, generating $430 million in tax revenue that local and state politicians have grown all too reliant on.

With that much overlapping jurisdiction and political control, it’s no surprise that a 2018 audit revealed $11.3 million in losses over a decade due to “mismanagement.” And that number is likely conservative, considering politicians aren’t known for making the best business decisions.

The ABC system raises costs for consumers, misallocates capital better used by private enterprise, and gives too much authority to politicians and administrators as economic planners rather than regulators. What would be the dispersed benefits and additional tax revenue if we allowed private liquor retailers to operate?

Yet we still see opposition to moderate proposals being introduced by state lawmakers to bring alcohol regulation into the 21st century.

Last week, S.B. 87 was introduced to merge ABC boards in counties where there are more than two, scrap liquor transportation permits, allow sale of individual bottles for special orders, liquor sales on Sundays, and in-store tastings. While the bill is encouraging, it doesn’t go far enough to empower consumers by dismantling the wasteful and unnecessary monopoly enjoyed by ABC stores.

A recent Elon University poll found that 52 percent of North Carolinians want to shut down the ABC monopoly and allow private liquor sales.

Those results were included in a 65-page report released by the Program Evaluation Division of the General Assembly earlier this month, urging moderate changes found in the Senate bill but falling short of recommending private liquor retail sales.

Sadly, the report assumes small tinkering of the status quo, rather than wholesale reform, would be the best way forward. It also assumes that a state monopoly on alcohol is a given. That’s precisely the problem.

It’s the same reason we don’t grant the state a monopoly on sales of firearms, tobacco, cured meats, and pesticides, products that can be abused or exploited to cause harm. For these products and thousands of others, we believe in robust and smart regulation to encourage free enterprise while protecting consumers, not total political control of a market in order to maximize tax revenue.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Prohibition ended 86 years ago, politicians aren’t business wizards, and liquor sales should be about responsible consumption in a competitive market rather than yet another government program to collect taxes. ABC should come to an end.

Originally published at https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article226861699.html

Dental therapists are no free market solution to dental woes

The current state of dental care in Florida is a mess. Florida lawmakers are right to address it.

However, the proposed solution of midlevel providers called dental therapists in SB 1498 misses the mark and is anything but a market solution.

Dental therapists require less training and education than dentists and can perform a fraction of dental procedures.

Thus far, the only functional dental therapist program is in Minnesota, created in 2011. But the same issues in dental care persist: costs are high, dental professionals in rural areas are lacking, and insurance is hard to come by.

Recent polls conducted in Arizona and Wisconsin found that 68 percent and 57 percent of adults in those states respectively oppose dental therapists as the “be all fix all” solution to our dental woes.

Instead, we should recognize out-of-state licenses for dentists, implement debt-relief plans for enticing dental students, and empower dental hygienists, who make up roughly a third of the dental workforce in this country. 

Dental therapists are not akin to hair braiders, tattoo artists, or stylists strapped with unreasonable labor restrictions and occupational licensing. Instead, they are purely a creation of government mandates and bureaucratic tinkering rather than market demand. There are no roving bands of dental therapists operating without licenses.

In Wisconsin, the governor is asking for $1 million to fund the dental therapy program next year and millions more will be required to fund it going forward.

Is that what we want in Florida?

We need more in the toolbox than just creating a new provider level and government program that adds its own costs.

Published in the Miami Herald: February 27,2019

Los Angeles receives the BAN Award for outlawing animal fur

The City of Los Angeles, California receives the February 2019 BAN Award for being the largest municipality in the United States to outlaw the sale of animal fur, depriving consumers of fashion choices and endorsing a policy that ignores evidence on animal conservation.

The ban is expected to go into full force by 2021, unless the second vote on the matter changes and Mayor Eric Garcetti doesn’t sign the bill. However, because the vote was a 13-1 margin, it is likely to pass.

“Rather than following the evidence on animal conservation, the city council of Los Angeles has blindly succumbed to the wishes of activist animal rights groups who have spread misinformation on the fur trade,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a millennial consumer advocacy group.

“Such a ban will have immediate consequences. First, it deprives consumers of the choice to wear fur or not. Second, it ignores the evidence of vital wildlife conservation for balancing our ecosystems. Last, it will force the existing companies out of business and underground, creating a black market that will be unregulated without regard for consumer standards and safety,” said Ossowski.

“Responsible wildlife management is a vital part of maintaining our ecosystems, and responsible players in the fur industry have done this. Criminalizing these elements will do more harm than good, and deprive consumers of their fashion choices.

“Making the buying and selling of fur an illegal act is anti-consumer, anti-free expression, and a huge blow to legitimate animal welfare efforts,” said Ossowski.

“Rather than following the whims of activists, municipalities should allow consumers to choose the fashion items they wish to wear, whether those be made of fur or not, and help support a vital fur trade that actively helps support and balance our environment and ecosystems.”

About the BAN Award:

Every month the Consumer Choice Center awards an institution, person, or organization with the Bureau of Nannyism or short BAN Award. The BAN Awards recognize the work of an individual or organization that has made major contributions to advocating limits on consumer choice. This award serves to recognize extraordinary abilities in disregarding consumers and evidence-based public policy. The award was created by the Consumer Choice Center to draw attention to the important role politicians, lobbies, and advocates play in limiting consumers’ choice and ignoring them in the policymaking process.

Selection criteria: The Bureau of Nannyism (BAN) is a group of consumer choice advocates that discuss nominations on a monthly base and award the nominee with the most innovative or most blunt actions against consumer choice with the BAN award.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Cannabis stocks climb ahead of congressional hearing on bank access

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the cannabis advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, urged lawmakers to push for banking reform, outlining the risks facing companies forced to operate as cash-only businesses.

“Higher risk means cannabis companies face additional costs,” Ossowski said in a statement. “They have to hire security guards for transporting cash and paying local and state taxes, hire additional accountants to understand how to comply with existing rules and dedicate hours to organizing cash for payroll and business expenses. That ends upraising the cost of the product.”

READ MORE

Legal Cannabis Is Here to Stay, and Consumers and Entrepreneurs Deserve Safe Banking Options

On Wednesday, US Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) will lead a subcommittee hearing on access to banking services for cannabis-related businesses.

For hundreds of millions of Americans across the country, cannabis is no longer the “reefer madness” street drug it once was.

Much like alcohol before it, the cannabis plant has evolved from a narcotic trafficked across borders and sold on the black market into one of the most sought-after products in legitimate commerce, bought by consumers who seek its medical or therapeutic benefits.

In states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical use, there are now thousands of cannabis-related businesses that buy and sell goods and services, estimated to be worth over $50 billion nationally. These states have, in the spirit of the American federal system, pursued their own economic and legal experiments, or “laboratories of democracy.” And they have been wildly successful.

The $1.4 billion in total cannabis sales in the state of Colorado last year and the $266 million in tax revenue point to this. California’s cannabis market is projected to be worth $7.7 billion by 2022.

Employees can themselves have their accounts shut down for even receiving a dime.

And yet, though 33 states have some measure of regulated cannabis laws and thousands of employees and consumers, the vast majority of cannabis-related businesses remain unbanked—without bank accounts and dealing only in cash. While nearly one-third of the country’s population lives in a state where cannabis can be purchased legally, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule 1 narcotic without any medical benefit and with a high potential for abuse.

If any bank accepts deposits from a firm dealing in cannabis, it risks losing the guarantee on its deposits from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, not to mention their federal banking license and the pressure from the IRS and federal investigators.

That means all businesses in the cannabis space operate in risky territory: The federal government considers them outlaws, banks won’t even touch their money, and they’re forced to deal only in cash. Employees can have their accounts shut down for even receiving a dime from their cannabis employers, and existing dispensaries are always at risk of being raided by law enforcement.

For the price-conscious digital millennial, an additional 20 percent markup on legal cannabis is a nudge to revert to the black market.

Higher risk means cannabis companies face additional costs. They have to hire security guards for transporting cash and paying local and state taxes, hire additional accountants to understand how to comply with existing rules, and dedicate hours to organizing cash for payroll and business expenses. That ends up raising the cost of the product.

For the price-conscious digital millennial who can compare prices at the swipe of a phone, an additional 20 percent markup on legal cannabis is a nudge to revert back to the unregulated black market where cannabis is relatively inexpensive. That not only risks consumer safety, but it also deprives governments and local communities of tax revenue.

At least some lawmakers, however, are voicing this concern and are prepared to act.

On Wednesday, US Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) will lead a subcommittee hearing on access to banking services for cannabis-related businesses.

The committee will hear from law enforcement, credit union representatives who have risked accepting cannabis clients, and state administrators who are dealing with their own crises in cannabis banking.

Whether or not to legalize cannabis is now a foregone conclusion. We’re living in the legalization moment, and Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and other states have opened the door.

Whether those voices will be enough to push Congress to enact change remains to be seen, but there is at least hope for the thousands of entrepreneurs and consumers who are seeking certainty.

If entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry will be able to access capital and loans similar to firms in practically every other industry, that means they will be able to grow their operations, hire more employees, and make investments—and consumers will be better off for it, not to mention cash-strapped state and local communities.

Whether or not to legalize cannabis is now a foregone conclusion. We’re living in the legalization moment, and Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and other states have opened the door. Now, our country must choose whether or not to embrace the successes of our state “laboratories of democracy,” which have proven that legalization works, and offer solutions to legitimize cannabis.

The next question is whether federal and state jurisdictions will adopt “smart” legalization that encourages markets, competition, safety, and the eradication of the black market. That’s how consumers and entrepreneurs will reap the most benefits and how cannabis can enjoy the mature industry status that alcohol has enjoyed for close to a century since the end of prohibition.

Originally published at https://fee.org/articles/legal-cannabis-is-here-to-stay-and-consumers-and-entrepreneurs-deserve-safe-banking-options/

Praising Santa Barbara County’s innovative cannabis regulations

The nascent cannabis sector is alive and well in California.

While many other California counties have shut the door on the legal cannabis market, Santa Barbara County has ensured both consumers and entrepreneurs can profit from cultivation and trade –– and that remains a huge boon to the local economy, taxpayers, and residents.

Out of the 6,481 (temporary) cannabis cultivation licenses in the State of California, 2,075 of them are in Santa Barbara County, accounting for nearly one third (as of February 7, 2019). The potential for job creation and positive economic impact is already being felt.

That’s in large part thanks to Santa Barbara County’s agricultural capabilities and history, its innovative and model rules, and its more flexible approach to welcoming farmers and entrepreneurs who are now entering this legal market. This approach will continue to benefit consumers not just here, but throughout the state. The same applies to the hundreds of local farmers who have already established themselves as competitive players in the state cannabis space.

That’s why we applaud the market-friendly environment so far cultivated in Santa Barbara County, and it should continue to be a model for other jurisdictions currently updating their rules.

The primary goal of cannabis regulations in a state where it is legal, such as California, should be to create smart cannabis policy, defined as a model of regulation that encourages markets, competition, safety, and the eradication of the black market. That’s how consumers and residents will reap the most benefits.

There will bad apples, no doubt. But existing regulations and rules, properly enforced, are the best method for ensuring compliance. That’s especially important when discussing nuisance concerns, laws on odor, size of cannabis farms, and keeping communities safe. Ultimately, consumers and residents alike want rules that help propel a legal and competitive market.

California’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Santa Barbara County’s cannabis space, and lawmakers would be wise to harness and ultimately propel this rather than relegating back to the drawing board. The current rules have drawn significant investment to this county, and the benefits will continue to be dispersed.

This is especially true as the Board of Supervisors considers any arbitrary limits on farm size, retail storefronts, and additional nuisance regulations. Let’s continue to offer praise for Santa Barbara’s cannabis regulations that will continue to serve as a model nationwide.

Green New Deal, a future without consumer choice

Democratic lawmakers in Congress have unveiled the outline of a number of policies they’ve dubbed as the “Green New Deal”. The Green New Deal is a series of legislative proposals that will focus on massively transforming society in hopes of achieving a future with “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Green New Deal offers Americans a frightening future where there is no consumer choice.

This outline of a Green New Deal is probably one of the most extreme attacks on consumer choice that could be conceived of in written form. We all agree mitigating climate change is a noble and important goal, but centrally remaking the American economy and depriving millions of their ability to choose the goods and services they rely on is unfair.

Not only does the plan enforce mandates that will likely bankrupt a host of industries and severely reduce output, but it also proposes to massively expand governmental control of which goods and services are offered to consumers, and in what form. If the goals of the outline are achieved, they will effectively eliminate the capacity of consumers to choose what type of fuels, products, food, or vehicles they can buy, and likely much more.

Planning to eliminate vehicles that run on internal combustion engines within ten years and doing away with air travel in favor of high-speed rail is an antiquated vision that, if enforced with federal laws, would likely delay any meaningful innovations in alternative energy that consumers would otherwise be supporting in the marketplace.

Requiring every building in America be retrofitted to an impossible environmental standard will rob consumers of the choice to determine how, within current zoning rules, they can build or maintain their properties. Unreasonable emission restrictions on small farms will likely make it impossible to maintain current levels of food production, thus depriving consumers of the thousands of food items they rely on.

Much like the ‘shovel-ready’ jobs the ‘New Green Deal’ proposes to offer every American, we hope this proposal is shoveled as quickly as possible where it belongs: in the past.

YAËL OSSOWSKI  is the Deputy Director for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC). The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe, closely monitors regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and informs and activates consumers to fight for consumer choice.

A ‘Green New Deal’ Represents a Future Without Consumer Choice

A ‘Green New Deal’ Represents a Future Without Consumer Choice

CONTACT:
Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center
[email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Democratic lawmakers in Congress have unveiled the outline of a number of policies they’ve dubbed as the “Green New Deal”. The Green New Deal is a series of legislative proposals that will focus on massively transforming society in hopes of achieving a future with “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said that the Green New Deal “offers Americans a frightening future where there is no consumer choice.”

“This outline of a Green New Deal is probably one of the most extreme attacks on consumer choice that could be conceived of in written form,” said Ossowski. “We all agree with mitigating climate change is a noble and important goal, but centrally remaking the American economy and depriving millions of their ability to choose the goods and services they rely on is unfair.

“Not only does the plan enforce mandates that will likely bankrupt a host of industries and severely reduce output, but it also proposes to massively expand governmental control of which goods and services are offered to consumers, and in what form. If the goals of the outline are achieved, they will effectively eliminate the capacity of consumers to choose what type of fuels, products, food, or vehicles they can buy, and likely much more.

“Planning to eliminate vehicles that run on internal combustion engines within ten years and doing away with air travel in favor of high-speed rail is an antiquated vision that, if enforced with federal laws, would likely delay any meaningful innovations in alternative energy that consumers would otherwise be supporting in the marketplace,” said Ossowski.

“Requiring every building in America be retrofitted to an impossible environmental standard will rob consumers of the choice to determine how, within current zoning rules, they can build or maintain their properties. Unreasonable emission restrictions on small farms will likely make it impossible to maintain current levels of food production, thus depriving consumers of the thousands of food items they rely on.

“Much like the ‘shovel-ready’ jobs the ‘New Green Deal’ proposes to offer every American, we hope this proposal is shoveled as quickly as possible where it belongs: in the past,” said Ossowski.

***CCC Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.