The Massachusetts chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA-MA) has had a busy year of activity. Whether on the legislative or regulatory front, the AMTA-MA has been advocating on behalf of licensed massage therapists to advance the profession while protecting the general public.
On the legislative front, the AMTA-MA has filed legislation to address issues that our enabling legislation from 2006 did not address. The AMTA-MA filed legislation, House Bill 2688, clarifies the definition of “massage”, tightens up the restrictions against the use of electronic means, establishes clearer boundaries for participating in sporting or charitable events and addresses the issue of using kinesio tape. To that end, the AMTA-MA met with various legislative leaders and members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, where our legislation was initially heard, and testified at the public hearing on the same. We also conducted an informational “Day on the Hill” where legislators and their staff were able to receive brief chair massages, learn about our industry/priorities and ask questions. The event, which drew over 180 legislators and staff and approximately 20 massage therapists, was well received. It should be noted that as the reporting deadline for legislative matters in the two year session approached on March 21, 2012, our legislation was given a favorable committee report in its first session of filing. We will now work with House and Senate leadership to get our legislation passed before the end of session December 31, 2012.
In addition to supporting our own legislation, the AMTA-MA was a member of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s coalition to pass a human trafficking law within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth was the last state without any defined crime addressing the issue of human trafficking – something that unfortunately impacts our industry. The Massachusetts Legislature not only passed this legislation, but also adopted an AMTA-MA amendment in both the House and Senate. The amendment added a representative of our governing licensing authority (i.e. the state agency that oversees our Board of Registration), to the task force that was created to combat human trafficking within the Commonwealth. In addition to directing our lobbyists on outreach to secure the amendment, the AMTA-MA drafted letters to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Speaker of the House, the Senate President and, eventually, the Governor in support of the measure. The Governor signed the measure November 21, 2011.
While Massachusetts was the last in the nation on passing a human trafficking law, the Commonwealth is the leader in health care reform. With that said, the Massachusetts Legislature is now looking at methods for controlling rising health care costs through payment reform and other methods. (Note: the national health care model is built largely upon the original health care reform packages enacted in Massachusetts within the past few years.) In recognition of our role as health care providers, the AMTA-MA became an original member of a coalition of non-MD health care providers ranging from optometrists, podiatrists, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, mental health nurses, physician assistants and other professionals, which was formed last year. The coalition works to educate the legislature about the importance of utilizing lower cost, high quality health care professionals and preventing health care organizations from discriminating against health care providers based on license type. The AMTA-MA continues its work with the coalition as it is anticipated that the Massachusetts legislature will pass some form of further health care this year.
Finally on the legislative front, the AMTA-MA was very active in defeating one particular piece of legislation that would have had a significant adverse impact on our profession. Senate Bill 90, which would have completely revamped the definition of massage while increasing practice hours from the current 650 hours to 900, was filed for the first time this session. In light of the detrimental impact this legislation would have had on our school members and their students, the AMTA-MA actively opposed this legislation by testifying at the public hearing on this matter in addition to meeting with the respective Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure to educate them about the dangers this legislation presented. The AMTA-MA, in addition to developing collateral materials against the matter, also submitted written testimony opposing the matter. It is with great relief that we can report that this legislation was put into a “study order” and is not expected to make it out of its initial committee. (The AMTA-MA, working with our outside lobbyist, reviewed any matter out of the almost 6,000 filed, that impacted the massage therapy industry early in 2011. This matter was identified as part of that review.)
On the regulatory front, the AMTA-MA continues to be an active presence at the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Massage Therapy. As well as having an active presence at every Board meeting, the AMTA-MA was very pleased that Governor Deval Patrick chose to nominate our outgoing Treasurer, Matt Olds, as a member of the Board. While we certainly miss Matt’s presence on our Board, it was natural that we would support the candidacy of someone who has given so much to the industry, generally, and our association, specifically.
Given the relative “newness” of the Board of Registration, the past year has found the AMTA-MA advocating before the Board on the implementation of continuing education requirements, the regulation and licensure of massage therapy schools as well as the potential implementation of a new state examination. On the examination front, AMTA-MA President Mary White has attended and, with the encouragement of the state Board, participated in the fact-finding conducted by the Board in its public meetings with the two major examination organizations. While the Board has not determined what exam, or if any exam, will be implemented, this is an issue that continues to be of concern to our student membership and educators.
Finally, the AMTA-MA continued, throughout the previous year, to be a resource for our members in “trouble-shooting” regulatory issues that may happen on a day-to-day basis. Whether addressing continuing questions about establishment licensure, the use of aliases or nicknames, or simply approaching the Board over potential privacy concerns over the use of home addresses on our publicly displayed licenses, the AMTA-MA strongly believes in advocating for our members’ interests – whether large or small.