The Amended Georgia House Bill 242 became effective July 1, 2019. Following are highlighted changes that pertain to massage therapists and schools.
There are big changes to licensing requirements, including the requirement that everyone must have liability insurance, definition changes, what local governments can (and cannot) do regarding businesses (including schools), permitted continuing education guidelines, and new advertising rules. For more information on these topics, read below.
Liability Insurance Required
Licensees are now required to have and agree to maintain liability insurance. It is required at time of licensure and is required of all licensed massage therapists. We have confirmed with the Georgia Board that ABMP's insurance member benefit complies with what is required by the law.
The Bill acknowledges that Massage Therapy is now considered “a therapeutic health care service delivered by health care professionals…,” and that licensed massage therapists (LMTs) are considered to be doing the work of “heath care professionals.”
The Bill further states that MTs should not be subject to regulations or fees not also imposed on other licensed health care professionals. Local governments should keep this in mind when requiring business licenses of massage therapists. The intent of this law is to prevent them from charging LMTs more than doctors and other health care professionals.
Also, please note that:
- The term “Massage Therapist” now includes those who teach massage therapy for compensation.
- “Massage Therapy,” or the Scope of Practice, now includes cupping therapy and taping techniques.
- The Bill specifically says that nothing prohibits licensees from also practicing the exempt modalities.
Changes to Educational Programs
Board-recognized massage programs will now be identified as Massage Therapy Educational Programs (programs) and defined as a program that receives compensation for the training of “two or more persons…”
Programs must also meet new “standards for training and curriculum.” These standards require that the program:
- Is consistent with the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education (GNPE) commission; and
- Is a Technical College System of Georgia postsecondary institution, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; OR
- Is an accredited postsecondary institution that is accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education and that is authorized/approved by a professional licensing board, department, or agency in another state, jurisdiction, or territory whose standards have been determined by the Board to be equivalent to the GNPE commission.
The Board can develop reasonable standards for the practice of programs, including onsite inspections (with reasonable notice); “periodic” evaluation; development and enforcement of reasonable standards; and the right to deny or withdraw program recognition for programs that do not meet Board standards.
Local Jurisdiction Ordinances
Local jurisdictions can now regulate (or license) massage therapy businesses, and are permitted to impose any of the following business requirements:
- Show proof of current liability insurance coverage.
- Comply with state and local fire and safety requirements.
- Exterminate “vermin, insects, termites and rodents.”
- Maintain equipment in safe and sanitary conditions.
- Provide adequate facilities (“running water, toilet tissue, soap dispenser with soap or other hand-cleansing materials, sanitary towels or other hand drying devices, waste receptacles, and adequate lighting and ventilation sufficient to remove objectional odors on the premises of the business or within reasonable proximity” to the business).
- Offer adequate showering facilities if the business has a “whirlpool bath, sauna, hot tub, spa, steam cabinet, or steam room.” The showers must also have soap, sanity cloth towels, and adequate lighting and ventilation.
- Prequalify processes, interviews, or other procedures prior to approval of an application for a business license of anyone offering massage therapy services.
- Require that a licensed massage therapist is present at all times the business is open.
- Provide evidence of a license to practice massage therapy.
However, local jurisdictions cannot:
- Require criminal background checks, proof of education, and training (but can require these of someone who is an employee, not a licensed MT)
- Limit the location of massage therapy businesses relating to the proximity of other massage therapy businesses)
- Prohibit off-premises or mobile-services licensing
- Limit businesses from engaging other licensed MTs as contractors or lessees of the premises
- Demand conditions or requirements that are inconsistent with HIPPA
The Bill also says that local jurisdictions shall not impose any requirements “for the purpose of impeding the lawful practice of massage therapy…”
Please keep in mind, local jurisdictions are not prohibited from licensing businesses that are not massage therapy businesses. They are also not prohibited from enacting advertising restrictions (however, they cannot add restrictions beyond what the Bill requires of massage therapists—see advertising section); inspecting massage therapy businesses (not including client records protected by HIPPA); or “prohibiting and prosecuting illicit, immoral, prurient, or illegal activities, or sexual activity in the operation or on the premises of a massage therapy business.”
Continuing Education & Renewal
The Board may now “develop and enforce” continuing education standards and approve requirements or credits to be used for renewal. Continuing education can be earned in massage therapy courses or exempt modalities. Please note, practitioners who were licensed prior to July 1, 2019, do not need to undergo recertification; however, there will be new requirements to meet as of renewal.
It is now a violation to advertise massage therapy services with the use of pictures unless the person is appropriately clothed “so as to avoid appealing to the prurient interest.” In addition, it is a violation to advertise the offer of massage therapy services combined with “illegal acts relating to sex related crimes.”
The Board has its regular administrative actions they can take against licensees or programs that were previously in the rules. For individuals or schools that are repeat offenders, the Board now has the teeth to go after these individuals. It is still a misdemeanor charge if the criminal courts take the case. The fines have been dramatically increased. Fines for criminal convictions start at $500–$5,000 for the first conviction, $5,000–$10,000 for a second conviction, and not more than $25,000 for a third conviction. A third conviction also imposes a penalty of being “precluded from owning, operating, or working for or with an entity that offers massage therapy.”