Bad news for trade-restraining state medical boards, good news for consumers in teeth-whitening case.
On February 25, the US Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s dental board violated antitrust laws by shutting down hair salons and day spas that offered teeth whitening services. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The decision preserves the power of antitrust enforcers to scrutinize professional licensing organizations, even if they are designated as state-government entities.”
The dental board had claimed they were exempt from antitrust law because they were a government body, but the court found that the board was acting without proper state supervision. Writing for the court, Justice Kennedy stated that antitrust law “does not authorize the states to abandon markets to the unsupervised control of active market participants, whether trade associations or hybrid agencies.”
You can see our earlier coverage of this case for more background.
This ruling is a clear message of caution to all state medical boards that use their power to protect their monopoly on the practice of medicine, typically to the detriment of CAM doctors.
Take, for instance, the state of Washington’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC), a state board infamous for its malicious treatment of integrative physicians.
We have recounted MQAC’s ongoing attacks against integrative medical practitioner Dr. Jonathan Wright. In the most recent case, Dr. Wright’s Tahoma Clinic had hired a medical doctor who had been licensed in another state, under the condition that he apply for a Washington medical license. He did so, and the doctor’s Washington license was listed as “pending” on MQAC’s website. During this period, Dr. Wright followed the legal advice he had received and monitored him closely as required by Washington law.
Suddenly, MQAC charged Dr. Wright with “aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine” because the doctor’s out-of-state license had been revoked! To add insult to injury, it soon became known that at least four MQAC staff members knew from the beginning that the doctor’s out-of-state license had been revoked and that he could therefore not be licensed in Washington, but they never put that information on the MQAC website or made any effort to inform Dr. Wright. It seems apparent that the intent was to entrap Dr. Wright by denying him any information.
Sadly, this is just one example among many of MQAC harassing integrative doctors. Examples abound where infractions by conventional doctors are overlooked entirely or given a slap on the wrist by MQAC and other state medical boards. When integrative doctors engage in similar behavior, however, MQAC throws the book at them.
This Supreme Court ruling offers hope to consumers, practitioners of integrative medicine, and all who oppose monopolies in healthcare—monopolies that usually have nothing to do with protecting public health and everything to do with protecting turf. That is why various nurses’ groups opposed the NC medical board.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) has also been at this game for a while in its efforts to pass “scope-of-practice” laws whereby only Registered Dieticians (RDs) can offer nutrition services. This, of course, explicitly excludes other nutrition professionals, who are often better educated, more experienced, and better qualified than RDs.
We can only hope that this Supreme Court decision serves as a precedent— not only for monopolistic state medical boards across the country, but for state nutrition/dietetics boards as well. The recent victory of Steve Cooksey in North Carolina offers another glimmer of hope that governmental and legal bodies are starting to crack down on medical and nutritional monopolies, and we at ANH-USA applaud these actions.