Hawaii Bill Proposes New Massage License/Registration Categories

A new bill, HI HB 1390, has been introduced in the Hawaii House of Representatives which, if passed, would add two new categories for massage therapists in Hawaii:  “certified massage therapist” and “massage therapy assistant.”  The current licensed massage therapist (LMT) category would remain in place as well. The bill is currently in the initial stages of the state legislative process and may or may not become law in Hawaii.

The bill defines a “certified massage therapist” as a Hawaii-licensed massage therapist who has been certified by the State Massage Board to practice “certified massage therapy.”  “Certified massage therapy” is defined as massage therapy that “includes the assessment and treatment of humans to evaluate, prevent, and alleviate pain, anguish and other physical and mental diseases and disorders primarily by means of massage therapy. It includes consultation, evaluation, treatment, and modification of treatment.”   In order to become a certified massage therapist, an applicant would be required to have a current Hawaii massage therapy license, at least one year of massage therapy experience, and an additional 300 hours of specified academic training, and would also be required to pass a certified massage therapist examination to be developed by the Board.

The bill includes a grandfathering provision allowing LMTs with at least three years of work experience to take the examination without meeting the other requirements prior to June 30, 2016. It is unclear what the state hopes to accomplish by adding another category of licensing. The bill would also eliminate the “massage therapist apprentice” designation and replace it with a new “massage therapist assistant” category.  The bill defines “massage therapy assistant as “a person who is registered as a massage therapy assistant in the State and assists a certified massage therapist,” with certain restrictions.  The bill further provides that “[a] massage therapist assistant under the supervision of a certified massage therapist is also permitted to engage in the practice of massage.”  In order to become a massage therapist assistant, an applicant would be required to have at least 300 hours of specified  academic training and have spent at least three months in training at a Board-approved massage school, and would also be required to pass a massage therapist assistant examination to be developed by the Board.

ABMP is opposed to HB 1390 because it adds unnecessary complexity to the massage therapy licensing program in Hawaii, and because the proposed scope of practice for certified massage therapists is confusing and problematic vis-a-vis other licensed healthcare fields.  We will keep you apprised of the status of HB 1390.