U.S. Supreme Court Rules: State Professional Boards May Not Suppress Competition - How This Ruling Affects You

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Are you regulated by a state board or do you sit on one? If you're a physician, dentist, pharmacist, nurse or other health care professional the answer is probably "yes," and you'll want to continue reading.

On February 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the North Carolina Board of Dentistry, made up of mostly dentists, violated federal law against unfair competition. The Board tried to prevent lower-cost competitors in other fields from offering teeth-whitening services. The Supreme Court deemed the dental board's actions an illegal suppression of competition.

Until this ruling, many state regulatory boards assumed that a state agency or board received immunity from the federal antitrust laws by virtue of its existence as a state-created entity. However the ruling rejected that theory and held that a state agency must be "actively supervised" to have antitrust immunity.

This ruling will have far-reaching effects on the states' regulation of professionals.


Details of the Case.

The North Carolina Dental Board oversees the practice of dentistry in North Carolina and is almost entirely composed of practicing dental professionals. The Board is elected by practicing peers and holds the authority to grant dental licenses and discipline against North Carolina dentists. Nationally, it is common for states to establish regulatory boards consisting of members of the profession being regulated.

Click here to read my previous blog on the background of this case.


What This Ruling Means for You.

Anyone who sits on a state board or agency or who is regulated by one needs to pay attention to this ruling because your actions, either with or in front of an agency that is not “properly supervised,” could expose you to antitrust liability.

This decision could spur two scenarios. First, more states could set up supervisory structures over professional regulatory boards. If states do not have an active supervision structure in place, then those decisions may be vulnerable to challenge in light of this case.

The other option is states may possibly reconstitute the membership of such boards, removing those who are actively practicing in the field to sidestep antitrust concerns. States may opt to change the composition of medical, dental and other boards, but it is not clear what sort of changes are needed to satisfy the test that the Court now adopts.

Click here to read the Supreme Court ruling.


Comments?

What do you think about this ruling? How do you think more supervision by the state will affect your practice? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.


The Health Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced in the area of commercial litigation, both simple and complex, in both state court and federal court. Additionally, we have prevailed in appeals of such cases in both the state courts of appeal and the federal courts of appeal. We can represent medical groups, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, physicians, nurse, dentists and other health care providers in commercial litigation cases.

Our firm also routinely represents health care providers in antitrust and restraint of trade, breach of contract, contract enforcement, dissolutions of partnerships and corporations, defeating enforcement of restrictive covenants, civil theft, unfair trade practices, shareholder disputes, and patient brokering laws.  To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

Schencker, Lisa. "Supreme Court Rules Against North Carolina Dental Board." Modern Healthcare. (February 25, 2015). From: http://bit.ly/17zlviU


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.


Keywords: Supreme Court, North Carolina dental regulatory board, Board of Dentistry, dentist, Board of Dental Examiners, Federal Trade Commission, FTC, teeth whitening services, teeth whitening, federal appeals, American Medical Association, suppression of competition, illegal suppression of competition, state board of medicine, state board of dentistry, non-dentist, American Dental Association, Federation of State Medical Boards, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, federal antitrust laws, defense attorney, defense lawyer, dentist attorney, dentist lawyer, health law firm. The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm reviews


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By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law 3/18/2015

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