Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

Georgia can crawl out of last place

[private]What should be the priority for a state legislator – to help their poorest constituents avoid pain and suffering, or to protect the fees paid to people like doctors and dentists?

In the case of Georgia legislators, the answer has traditionally been to protect the fee systems of wealthy professionals.

For example, there is a state law that says dental hygienists cannot provide basic dental services such as teeth cleanings in settings like school clinics and nursing homes unless a dentist is physically present to provide “direct supervision.”

This means that thousands of low-income Georgians are destined to suffer from tooth decay and gum diseases because they can’t afford to go to the dentist.

Sam Whitehead of GPB reported on how the law affects Turner County Elementary, located in the south Georgia town of Ashburn, where more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

A dental clinic was set up at the elementary school that is equipped with three used dental chairs and related medical equipment. A nonprofit group called Turner Family Connection bought the equipment three years ago so that kids whose families couldn’t afford a trip to the dentist might at least be able to get teeth cleanings and fluoride treatments.

No such luck. No children have been treated at the clinic because there aren’t many dentists in that part of the state and state law, as we know, makes it illegal for hygienists to provide these basic services unless a dentist is physically on site.

Georgia is one of only three states – Alabama and Mississippi are the others – that still make it against the law for hygienists to do this.

Why is such an absurd statute allowed to remain on the books? Because dentists, like doctors, are a powerful group of professionals who can afford to have lobbyists represent them at the capitol.

There are dentists who don’t want to see their revenue stream threatened by the existence of safety net clinics that would provide free dental care for poor people, so their lobbyists have worked hard to keep the state law from being repealed.

That situation appears to be changing this year. Bills that would repeal the requirement for “direct supervision” were introduced in both chambers and are making their way through the legislative process.  The House and Senate both voted last week to approve their versions of the bill.

“This will help provide much-needed preventive dental care to children and senior citizens in areas where they can’t be reached,” Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) said.

Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), a legislator who is also a dentist, is one of the sponsors of the House bill.

“All in all, if it helps more children access dental care, then we have done a good day’s work,” Hawkins said.

If one or both of the bills are enacted into law, Georgia can finally crawl out of last place among the states that still have this barbaric prohibition in law.

Speaking of prohibition, our state is in last place in an entirely different category. Georgia and Mississippi are the last two states that still make it illegal for craft brewers and local distillers to sell their products directly to customers.

This law is a holdover from the prohibition era, and like the prohibitions against dental hygienists, it’s probably time for the state to get rid of it.

The protected class in this case are the wholesalers. They don’t produce beer and distilled spirits at the manufacturing end, and they don’t sell it to customers on the retail end. Craft brewers and distillers, however, are required to sell their products to wholesalers, who turn around and sell it to package stores.

The law enables wholesalers to extract a fee for serving as the middle man between the producers and the sellers, and this fee is part of the price consumers pay if they want to drink beer or other alcoholic beverages.

This system has been in place for a long time, but some of the younger legislatures have been asking why the law should be interfering with how brewers sell their beer.

Bills allowing retail sales by local brewers and distillers are making their way thorough the system during this session.

Perhaps Georgia can also climb out of last place on this issue as well.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

Tags: craft brewers , dental hygienists

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