The Effects of Dental Hygienist Autonomy on Dental Care Utilization

21 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2020

See all articles by Jie Chen

Jie Chen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Chad D. Meyerhoefer

Lehigh University

Edward Timmons

West Virginia University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 25, 2020

Abstract

Because of the limited supply of health care providers relative to the demand for health care services, increases in provider autonomy are believed to improve access to health care by reducing barriers to the provision of certain services. However, research on the impact of scope of practice laws for health and dental professionals is limited. We investigate the effects of regulations governing the practice autonomy of dental hygienists on dental care use and expenditure using the 2001–2014 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We measure the strength of autonomy regulations by extending the Dental Hygiene Professional Practice Index to the years 2001–2014, allowing us to capture changes in regulations within states over time. Using a difference-in-differences framework, we find that relaxing supervision requirements to provide dental hygienists greater autonomy results in higher levels of dental care utilization in areas with a shortage of dental care providers. Moreover, expanding dental hygienist autonomy increased the use of many services that dental hygienists perform, such as cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealant applications, and fillings. We also find that greater autonomy reduces costs associated with dental treatment for both individuals and third-party payers.

Keywords: Occupational Licensing, Scope of Practice, Autonomy, Dental Hygienist, Dental Care Utilization, Dental Expenditure, Preventive Care

JEL Classification: J44

Suggested Citation

Chen, Jie and Meyerhoefer, Chad D. and Timmons, Edward, The Effects of Dental Hygienist Autonomy on Dental Care Utilization (June 25, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3635762 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3635762

Jie Chen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Chad D. Meyerhoefer

Lehigh University ( email )

621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Edward Timmons (Contact Author)

West Virginia University - Department of Economics ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

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