Author(s): Grytten J, Srensen R
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Abstract Dental services for adults are different from all other Norwegian health services in that they are provided by private producers (dentists) who have full freedom to establish a practice. They have had this freedom since the end of World War II. A further liberalization of the market for dental services occurred in November 1995, when the so-called normal tariff was repealed. The system changed from a fixed fee system to a deregulated fee system. In principle, the market for dental services for adults operates as a free competitive market, in which dentists must compete for a market share. The aim of this study was to study the short-term effects of competition. A comprehensive set of data on fees, practice characteristics, treatment profiles and factors that dentists take into account when determining fees was analysed. The main finding was that competition has a weak effect. No support was found for the theory that the level of fees is the result of monopolistic competition or monopoly. The results also provided some evidence against the inducement hypothesis. At this stage, it is interesting to notice that dentists do not seem to exploit the power they have to control the market. One explanation, which is consistent with the more recent literature, is that physicians' behaviour to a large extent is influenced by professional norms and caring concerns about their patients. Financial incentives are important, but these incentives are constrained by norms other than self-interest. The interpretation of the results should also take into account that the deregulation has operated for a short time and that dentists and patients may not yet have adjusted to changes in the characteristics of the market. Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
This article was published in Health Econ
and referenced in Industrial Engineering & Management