By Barbara Pash
The changes were approved last month by the Maryland Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners, and published in the Maryland Register. The required 30-day public comment period ends Jan. 18, when the proposed changes go to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for a final decision.
“There is widespread opposition to the changes within the massage therapy community,” said Cher Hunter, a licensed massage therapist and member of the board of the Maryland Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association. The group is spearheading a letter-writing campaign to get the department to reject the changes.
Hunter contended that the proposed changes would limit the options for continuing education. Massage therapists need to get 24 hours of continuing education credit for each two year license renewal period.
Under the proposed changes, only courses determined by the board to meet professional standards are acceptable for continuing education credits. Courses given by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and by Maryland schools accredited by the Maryland Higher Education Commission would not be accepted — unless pre-approved by the board at least 90 days before the class starts and for a $25 per course fee. Hunter said this red tape and expense would limit the number of courses and deter national providers from entering the state scene.
“The Maryland changes are much stricter than most states’ requirements,” Hunter said.
The proposed changes would also increase the cost of massage therapist licensing by adding requirements for CPR and first aid training. Hunter estimated this would cost $100 per renewal period, creating an economic hardship. She said the state’s nearly 4,000 massage therapists already pay significantly for their licenses.
“The initial fee is $450 for the state process and $225 fee for the national certifying examination, making the $675 for a state license the most expensive in the country,” Hunter said. In addition, therapists pay $250 every two years for license renewal, plus the cost of continuing education courses.
James Vallone, executive director of the Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners, said that the proposed changes are consistent with the 2008 statute that combined massage therapists and chiropractors under a single single board.
The act also changed massage therapy from a practice requiring certification to one that is licensed, and gave the board responsibility for regulating it. “The proposed changes emanate from that” act, said Vallone.
The board “has to develop implementing regulations that affect that statute,” Vallone continued, “and a review is required by the state to keep the regulations in compliance with the profession and the board’s budget.”
Vallone said the board has been getting “some comments” from the massage therapy community, but that is to be expected whenever changes are proposed. These changes would make massage therapy continuing education requirements consistent with requirements for chiropractors.
Vallone acknowledged that all continuing education units will have to be approved by the board to get credit. “That being said,” he continued, providers have “several different options” to enable them to pay a single, $25 fee for multiple offerings.
“The board looked at the cost – whether it would diminish the availability of quality courses – and came to the conclusion that it would not,” said Vallone. “We are not eliminating any certifying agency.”