ABMP Advocates to Protect the Autonomy of the Arizona Massage Board

ABMP submitted comments to the Arizona legislature regarding House BIll 2169, which would merge the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy with the Arizona Barbering and Cosmetology Board. We are opposed to this legislation and advocated on your behalf to protect the autonomy of the Arizona State Massage Board. We invite you to read our comments below and write to your elected officials. Find your legislator here.

TO: Members of the Arizona Legislature
RE: Comments on House Bill 2169
Position: Opposed

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) provides professional liability insurance, business resources, professional publications, and legislative and regulatory advocacy for more than 81,000 members nationwide, including more than 2,000 members in Arizona.

ABMP is writing to express its concern and opposition to House Bill 2169 (HB 2169), a bill that would negatively impact licensed massage therapists due to its effort to merge the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy with the Arizona Barbering and Cosmetology Board. ABMP believes the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy must remain a stand-alone board.

First, the massage therapy and barbering/cosmetology professions are fundamentally different. Barbering and cosmetology relate to beautification, while massage therapy is a therapeutic health-care profession that promotes health and wellness, relieves pain, and aids in rehabilitation. HB 2169 would cede control of a health-care profession to regulators who are not equipped with the in-depth knowledge of massage therapy or the needs of massage therapists. This will be reflected by the new board composition outlined in HB 2169, which would be unfairly balanced with more members of the barbering and cosmetology community: barbering/cosmetology would have four seats while massage therapy would have two (this includes schools).

Second, HB 2169 could lead to massage therapy job loss due to a lack of insurance reimbursement. If massage therapy is placed under the barbering/cosmetology umbrella, the Federation of Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) estimates approximately 10,000 massage therapists in Arizona could effectively be removed from the health-care realm, causing difficulties with securing insurance reimbursement for clients. Insurance companies could choose not to reimburse, even if the service is deemed medically necessary. As a result, massage therapists in private practice who accept insurance could lose significant income due to substantial loss of clientele who need financial assistance for their health and wellness care. Massage therapists in health-care settings could outright lose their jobs. This domino effect could also have a negative impact on Arizona’s economy.

Third, a board merger would not fix massage therapy application/renewal processing times. As a provision for license application and renewal, massage therapists must submit fingerprints—a barbering/cosmetology application or renewal does not have this same requirement. The Arizona State Barbering and Cosmetology Board is not familiar with this process and would need extra administrative assistance to accomplish the additional responsibilities. With no intention to allocate funds to relieve this administrative burden, long wait times for massage license applications and renewals will persist.

Finally, ABMP works with various boards and regulatory agencies across the country. The Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy performs more work than a typical regulatory agency because of the many issues affecting the massage therapy profession, in particular, illegal activity and human trafficking. The Arizona State Board of Massage is a partner in the fight against human trafficking while respecting licensed massage therapists who are not engaging in nefarious acts. Combining boards will not help solve the problem of illicit activity, but rather create a larger problem with fewer financial resources. Specialty work of this nature is unique to the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy and of the profession it represents and differs from what a barbering/cosmetology regulatory agency would be able to address or assist.

In numerous states across the country, laws recognize massage therapy as a health-care or medical profession, and massage therapy boards exist under health codes. Since massage is not affiliated with, nor related to, barbering/cosmetology, ABMP believes the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy should be retained as an independent board. We encourage you to vote no on HB 2169.

Thank you for considering our opinions.