Maryland Considering Changes to Massage Therapy Regulations

SUGGESTED ACTION STEPS FOR MEMBERS ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS NOTICE – DEADLINE JANUARY 18, 2011

The Maryland Board of Chiropractic Examiners is promulgating rules to implement the changes in the law enacted by the Legislature in October 2008.

Some of the changes suggested are fundamental housekeeping items, such as name change (for example, the board will be known as the Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners). Others, however, are more substantial in nature and are cause for concern. Specifically, ABMP has concern about the following changes or oversights:

  1. Lack of choice in required examination; and
  2. Overhaul of continuing education approval process.

An explanation of each of these areas follows:

COMAR 10.43.17.04: Include the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) as an accepted examination for licensure.The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) is accepted by twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands). In addition, the exam has been endorsed as the preferred licensure examination by ABMP, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), and the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE).

The exam is psychometrically valid (based on a job task analysis of more than 7,600 practitioners) and its development included the regulatory community at every step to ensure the exam’s focus on public protection—a regulatory board’s mission and responsibility. The MBLEx is administered through Pearson VUE at the highest level of security available in test centers across the United States.

ABMP supports the MBLEx in part because the application process is easier for exam candidates resulting in better access to licensure and the right to practice. It helps licensure applicants meet the exam qualification for licensure more efficiently resulting in candidates getting their license in a more timely manner and therefore starting work more quickly after graduation.

Our view: There is no reason for the Maryland Board not to accept the exam and provide relief to applicants for licensure who may be delayed by independent certification boards and their specific qualifications to test.

It is also important to note that by accepting “National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) examination, the board is essentially accepting all exams offered by the certification organization NCCAOM whether the exam focuses on Asian Bodywork, Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, or Chinese Herbology. ABMP is hopeful that the board does not intend to limit exam options for massage therapists by excluding the MBLEx, while at the same time allowing passage of the Oriental Medicine of Herbology exam to suffice.

COMAR 10.43.20.02: Don’t overcomplicate the continuing education approval process.The Board has sought to revise the approval process for continuing education providers, and ABMP has a few suggestions to offer.

The board is concerned that currently they are obligated to accept all NCBTMB-approved continuing education whether it is massage-related or not, and that by automatically accepting NCBTMB-approved providers, they are giving preferential treatment to that organization. To solve this, the board is suggesting eliminating NCBTMB recognition as a means of approval, and instead would review/approve any course seeking credit towards Maryland’s practitioner continuing education requirements.

Our view: If the Board is concerned about giving preferential treatment to NCBTMB, they could also include ABMP and AMTA approval to broaden the process, while still maintaining the right to reject any course that does not relate to the practice of massage therapy. The Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners recognizes CE courses offered by the American Physical Therapy Association; there should be some consistency among regulations and professions.

The board has public protection and client safety in mind; typical CE course offerings in the massage profession focus on new techniques or disciplines, practice and career development, and client safety. Thoughtful inclusion of “related” subjects will help therapists prosper. Not every CE course can or should be limited to safety, hygiene, or jurisprudence. If the Board feels CE courses should be limited to only those that directly affect its charge of public protection and safety, it should reduce the number of required CE hours accordingly.

One issue that we believe is simply a typographical error:
Continuing Education Course processing fee per hourly course unit—$25.

Our understanding is that the intent of the board is to allow as many courses to be approved under a provider at one time (one mailing) for the fee of $25; if that is the case the language needs to be changed to reflect that policy. This existing language cannot be interpreted to suggest that policy.

Suggested change: Continuing Education Course processing fee per provider $25

ABMP is very concerned that members have access to all forms of continuing education and that it remains as affordable as possible.

Suggested Action Steps for members:The deadline to submit comments related to the regulation changes is January 18, 2011. ABMP encourages you to use the information contained in this notice to submit your own comments to the Office of Regulation and Policy Coordination.

Comments may be sent to:
Michele Phinney, Director, Office of Regulation and Policy Coordination
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
201 W. Preston Street, Room 512
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Email: regs@dhmh.state.md.us

Fax: 410-767-6483

A public hearing has not been scheduled. This may be the only opportunity to comment.