Law & Legislation Fall 2021 Updates

Published: October 1, 2021

This summary is provided by our lobbyist, Mark Molloy, and Law & Legislation Chair, Greg Hurd.

Emergency COVID-19 Paid Leave Program Extended. The Emergency Paid COVID-19 Leave Program will now be extended to April 1, 2022 under a bill that passed both the House and Senate 9/28/21. This program applies to all employers, but is also reimbursable from the state. Every full-time employee receives up to 40 hours (pro-rated for part-time employees) of job-protected, emergency paid sick leave for certain COVID-19 reasons, including, but not limited to obtaining the COVID-19 vaccination or to recover from symptoms arising from getting COVID-19 or the vaccination. For more information, please visit the website.

DPL is now the DOL. As a result of the Governor’s recent legislation, the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) has changed its name to the Division of Occupational Licensure (DOL). The Board of Registration for Massage therapy now officially falls under the DOL.

Proposed Health Care Lien Bill Includes Massage Therapists. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a public hearing on HB1913, An Act Relative to Health Care Liens and Consumer Protection. In short, this legislation would amend the current law that allows for hospitals and insurers to sue for a lien over unpaid medical bills to include a variety of health care providers, including massage therapists, to do the same. This will help to protect massage therapists who are billing insurance companies. The AMTA-MA submitted written testimony in support of this bill.

Properly Defining Massage Therapy Establishments. The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional licensure recently held a hearing relative to the licensure of ink / tattoo establishments. As the bill referred to “massage parlors”, the AMTA-MA weighed in with written testimony asking the Committee to change the reference to “massage therapy establishments”.

Bodywork Licensure vs. Safe Harbor. There are two important bills introduced in Massachusetts impacting access to bodyworkers, and alternative healers. SB221/HB350 and SB1380/HB2343. The AMTA-MA has been monitoring each bill and weighing-in where and when appropriate. (Note: massage therapy is clearly identified and separated as its distinct discipline in both bills.). The two bills are as follows:

     o SB221 / HB350, An Act Regulating Alternative Healing Therapies. Filed by the Attorney General, Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Mike Day, this legislation would create statewide licensure for so-defined bodyworkers. Besides some practical issues related to the merging of the proposed board with the existing Board of Registration for Massage Therapy, there remain significant questions as to what exactly constitutes bodywork. The bodywork community is very divided about this legislation. The vocal opposition has been successful in the past session or two stopping this bill’s progress.

     o SB1380 / HB2343, An Act Providing for Consumer Access to and the Right to Practice Complementary and Alternative Health Care Services. There is support for this legislation in the bodywork and alternative healing practitioner community. In essence, the legislation would provide a “safe harbor for practice” for so-identified bodyworkers and alternative healing practitioners. While the legislation does not allow this category of provider to hold themselves out as a massage therapist or other profession that requires a license, it does propose to allow them to practice as they choose as long as they provide clients a disclosure before providing services. We are watching these two bills very closely.

Regulations Governing Massage Therapists. As you know, the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Massage Therapy is updating the massage regulations. They have recently sent a version of the proposed regulations to other agencies in the Baker-Polito Administration for their review before they begin the public hearing process necessary to make these proposed regulations official. Please know that the proposed regulations may change during this process, but currently, the proposed regulations provide the following:

     o A requirement for continuing education – they are looking at 6 hours/year, but are also considering 12 hours/year

     o A requirement to pass the MBLEx for all new therapists starting January 2023

     o A CPR requirement for all LMTs

     o Renewal periods every two years instead of one. (While we strongly support this, we have concerns it may be too big a change for the Administration).

     o Again, please note that there will be a public hearing process where the everyone can share their thoughts and comments. They are not close to being official yet.