Rhode Island Legislative Updates

Changes to Massage Law

Earlier this year we wrote to you regarding Senate Bill 576 (SB576; identical to House Bill 6033), which Rhode Island legislators were considering. The bills aimed to modify massage therapy law by cleaning the law up and making it clearer. Both bills passed through the legislature and became law on July 8, 2019, and went into effect upon passage. Here is a summary of the changes these bills make:

  • Individual license renewals will now be done on an annual basis.
  • 6 continuing education units (CEUs) are required for a license renewal now that licenses are one year in length. Previously, 12 CEUs were required for each biennial renewal. 
  • Massage therapists are no longer required to display their licenses but must have their license available at all places of business. 
  • The criminal background check is now a national background check, rather than just a state background check.
  • The hours of education required for licensure is now increased to 650.
  • The scope of massage therapy has been updated—pursuant to research by the Massage Therapy Foundation—to differentiate massage therapy from alternative modalities that do not require a massage therapy license to practice.
  • The responsibilities and composition of the massage board have changed. Massage therapists will represent the majority of the board.  

Over the coming months the Board of Massage Therapists will promulgate rules to implement the above changes.

Bills to Expand Health Insurance to Include Massage Therapy

We are monitoring two additional identical bills, House Bill 5120 (HB5120) and Senate Bill 68 (SB68). These bills require all individual and group health insurance plans to provide coverage for massage therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and acupuncture/oriental medicine. Additionally, the bills address that these added therapies are effective treatments for patients undergoing pain treatments.

As the bills are currently written, they would require insurance plans to cover these services starting January 1, 2020. The committees considering these two bills have requested additional research be conducted before voting on the bills, so the bills are on hold at the moment. The Rhode Island legislature is still in session but operating on a limited basis, so we aren't sure the bills will move forward this session. We support the bills.