Written by AMTA-MA Chapter Lobbyist, Mark Molloy
For those who attended the AMTA-MA’s Annual Meeting in May, it was apparent the AMTA-MA Law and Legislation Committee has been keeping busy. As the Massachusetts legislature approaches the end of its formal session on July 31st and Governor Charlie Baker’s final term draws to a close, the AMTA Mass. chapter’s Law and Legislation Committee has remained busy both on the legislative and regulatory fronts.
Legislatively, there were a number of pieces of legislation filed this session that would have impacted the massage therapy profession. Some of the bills that the AMTA-MA have been watching and weighing in on include, but are not limited to the following:
House Bill 350 / Senate Bill 221, An Act Regulating Alternative Healing Therapies. This legislation, which was placed into a study order by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection, would have created a specific state license for bodyworkers. While the legislation also would have created a joint massage therapy and bodywork board, massage therapists would have comprised a majority of said board. The AMTA-MA has been providing input to the Massachusetts legislature through written testimony and meetings on this matter for a number of years.
House Bill 2343 / Senate Bill 1380, An Act Providing for Consumer Access to and the Right to Practice Complementary and Alternative Health Care Services. The so-called “safe harbor” legislation that would provide bodyworkers and other alternative health care providers with a series of disclosures to avoid liability for practicing their chosen discipline was eventually given a study order by the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. The legislation, which contained protections for the practice of massage therapy by a licensed massage therapist, has been sought by some as an alternative to the bodyworker licensing legislation. Again, the AMTA-MA provided input to the Massachusetts legislature through written testimony and meetings on this matter.
House Bill 2087, An Act Relative to Non-Opioid Alternatives in Pain Treatment. The AMTA-MA continued its efforts to ensure that Massachusetts legislators and staff know about the health benefits of massage therapy. As such, the AMTA-MA supported a first time filing by Medtronic to encourage physicians to provide patients with information about non-opioid related means of achieving pain relief. While the legislation was placed into a study order by the Joint Committee on Public Health, the bill still gave us the opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of massage therapy as an essential part of any health care regimen.
House Bill 1913 / Senate Bill 1406, An Act Relative to Health Care Liens and Consumer Protection. Part of the AMTA-MA’s Law and Legislation Committee’s mission is making sure that we continue to press forward on the fact that massage therapy is a part of health care. HB 1913 /SB 1406 is a simple piece of legislation ensuring that all health care providers, including massage therapists, have a means for collecting unpaid bills for services. While the Joint Committee on Judiciary placed this legislation into a study order, the AMTA-MA was able to work with podiatrists, chiropractors, optometrists, and other health care providers in supporting this legislation.
In addition to the aforementioned matters, the AMTA-MA’s Law and Legislation team has been following legislation that impacts small businesses, specifically. Whether related to keeping track of potential changes to the Commonwealth’s independent contractor law or modifications to the new paid family leave law, we continue to watch for matters that will impact massage therapists – whether in their role as employers, employees or independent contractors.
On the regulatory front, the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Massage Therapy (“Board’) has remained active. As reported at the AMTA-MA’s Annual Meeting, the Board has been developing regulatory changes that will impact the massage therapy profession in Massachusetts. The AMTA-MA’s Law and Legislation Committee has attended every Board meeting to provide input and feedback on the proposed changes. While the Baker-Polito Administration is currently reviewing the proposed changes, keep an eye out for the following potential regulatory changes soon:
Examination requirements for new graduates. Under the proposed regulations, a national examination (i.e. MBLEx) will be required for massage school graduates applying for licensure for the first time. The tentative date for this to start is January 2023, but this is subject to potential change. Currently licensed therapists will be grandfathered in and will not need to take any examination for continued licensure.
Continuing education. Under the proposed regulations, six (6) continuing education (CE) hours will be required. Originally required as part of the original massage therapy licensing law, the CE requirements are long overdue. The parameters for meeting the CE requirements are pretty flexible in the proposed regulations.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) requirement. The proposed regulations will also likely require submitting proof of CPR training for all licensed massage therapists – whether those seeking initial licensure or a renewal. This is a straightforward requirement that most, if not all, licensed health care providers must meet.
Documentation requirements. New documentation requirements are actively being looked at under the new regulations. For all intents and purposes, this means that that massages for “general relaxation” will require some type of documentation. As well, expect to see a requirement that a massage therapist has received written and oral acknowledgment from the client relative to the type of massage being provided.
Biannual licensure instead of annual licensure. The AMTA-MA Law and Legislation Committee has been working to support the Board’s initiative to make the massage therapy license a two-year license. We have been asking for this change for a long time. While the Baker-Polito Administration’s decision about this part of the proposed regulations is not finalized, we continue to push for its inclusion.
Speaking of the Board, we greatly appreciate the work that every member of the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Massage Therapy puts in to improving our profession. Board members Paul Andrews, Kimberlee Schuler and Pallas Hutchison each attended the AMTA-MA Annual Meeting and participated in the Ethics class. As an added bonus, Board Chair Andrews also spoke to attendees about the Board’s work today and its vision for the future. The Board’s Executive Director, Caitriona Taylor, and Brian Preston, Licensing Customer Service Specialist, presented their thoughts during the meeting and staffed a “licensing help table” to assist attendees with their licensing questions and issues. We appreciate the continued work and support of the Board and the professional staff at the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Licensure.
The year ahead will bring many changes. We are hopeful that the new regulations will be formally proposed and approved before the end of the year. Regardless, we know that the upcoming year will bring a host of new considerations as we prepare for a new Administration for the first time in eight (8) years. We continue to make good progress on behalf of the massage therapy profession, but there is so much more to do. To this end, please be prepared to act if the AMTA-MA Law and Legislation Committee reaches out for you to contact your local elected officials. We are a strong association, but we are only as strong as each of our members’ support for our initiatives!