Bill Aims to Increase Entry-Level Education Requirements in MA - Again

Senate bill 90, sponsored by Senator Chang-Diaz , would increase the entry-level education required for licensure of massage therapists. ABMP is strongly opposed to SB 90. If passed, first time applicants for a license to practice massage therapy would have to complete a 900 hour massage program to qualify for a license to practice. Currently licensed massage therapists would also be negatively impacted by the bill. The bill not only increases the entry-level hours to 900 hours, but mandates a specific breakdown of required hours in subject areas that are inconsistent with the rest of the country, including:
  • 200 hours of anatomy, physiology, and pathology;
  • 150 hours of kinesiology and/or mycology;
  • 50 hours in the subject of hygiene, first aid, CPR, HIV including the instruction of infection control procedures;
  • 180 hours of general theory and applications of massage therapy;
  • 200 hours of additional instruction including a minimum of 75 hours of ethics, law, and business practices;
  • 120 hours of actual hands-on practical massage therapy in a clinic or other supervised setting;
If passed, SB 90 would limit the state to recognizing only education from “accredited massage schools.” Accreditation is a voluntary process some schools choose to participate in because it allows the school to participate in the USDE federal Title IV program. Only 57% of schools nationwide are accredited. Accreditation can be a cost prohibitive process for smaller schools and result in higher tuition for students. Potential students would be confronted with much higher tuition costs if a 900-hour education requirement was adopted. Existing practitioners already licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would also be negatively impacted. The board would only renew those practitioners who, within a twelve month period following the effective date of this section, have done one of the following:
  1. Completed 150 hours of continuing education as prescribed by the board;
  2. Passed the national certification exam offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB); or
  3. Is able to demonstrate that the applicant has been in active continuous practice of massage therapy for at least five years immediately preceding the effective date of this section.
The bill would also amend the scope of practice defined in law to include the prescription of stretching techniques and exercises but shall specifically not include diagnoses, the prescribing of drugs or medicines, spinal or other joint manipulations or any services or procedures for which a license to practice medicine, chiropractic, occupational therapy or podiatry is required by law. Therapeutic exercise is traditionally not included in the scope of practice for massage therapists; it is not unreasonable to expect some opposition from physical therapists and athletic trainers. House Bill 2688, sponsored by Representative Cabral, seeks a few small technical changes to the existing law and expand the definition of “advertising” to include electronic means. ABMP is neutral on this bill.