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Massage Today
December, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 12

A Letter to the Presidential Candidates

By Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT

Author's note: The following letter is directed to all candidates, from both parties, running for the office of President of the United States. I encourage you to forward this letter to your congressperson or senator, or directly to the candidates themselves.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact me via my Web site,

Dear Presidential Candidates,

I could request more than 100,000 licensed and certified massage therapists write to each of you individually and bombard your offices, or we can choose to send each of you this one letter, which represents a good majority of us.

As insurance committee chair for the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and the insurance liaison for two of our major massage associations, I have fielded all insurance related questions over the past few years. I have had more than 20 years experience in the profession and as many years working with physician referrals and insurance-related cases. I ask on behalf of those in my profession, our patients, those who are unable financially to receive our care, and the physician's who refer cases to us that, as you put together your insurance or medical plans, make sure that all providers who are qualified by state licensure and/or national certification be directly reimbursed. Physicians have the right to select a qualified provider of their choice to provide medical services to their patients.

The reasoning behind this is the following: Physicians specifically refer their patients to those who specialize in the type of care they feel their patients need for improvement, and improvement should be the name of the game. They should be able to refer to physical therapists for that which they are proficient at, occupational therapists for the services that an OT specializes in, and the same for speech and language services being provided by a speech language pathologist.

Let me ask you this:. You would not want to go to a veterinarian to have your teeth cleaned, would you? Sound crazy? But make no mistake about it, many of the insurers will not reimburse a trained, licensed or certified massage therapy professional (in some states even considered health care practitioners under their licensing boards), but they will reimburse another health care professional to provide services they do not do, do not want to do, do not have time to do and are not trained to do. Does this make sense to you?

All massage therapists may not agree here because they are afraid their independence and freedom to make decisions and to charge their own fees may be taken away, as well as their freedom to choose not to accept medically referred cases and insurance for reimbursement. In other words, they are afraid we will lose the control of our profession as we have known it.

However, I am speaking for those who do believe they can help so many more patients: patients who need the therapy more than ever, such as hospice patients, lymphedema patients, veterans, those in nursing facilities, and those with injuries where they are unable to return to work, as well as other disability cases. We know that your help on this issue will open doors to many more opportunities for all involved. It's therapy that works, a therapy that most people love rather than regret having to receive. This, in itself, is healing.

I am asking on behalf of thousands from our professional field that you make sure all who specialize in their particular fields, when prescribed by a treating physician, be directly reimbursed by insurance plans.

This also must go for Medicare and self-insured ERISA-qualified plans, the reason being is that right now only physical therapists are allowed to be reimbursed for treatment (that a massage therapist best provides) when it's billed to Medicare as "incident to" physician services." Physical therapists are not all qualified with training in specific massage/manual and soft-tissue manipulation. They do not want to or cannot afford the time restraints, so patients are suffering in pain without quality care that is available.

We need not only for Medicare, but also for self-insured employer plans to allow services to be provided by and reimbursed to licensed and/or certified massage therapists. When a patient is seen by the most qualified provider for medical services prescribed by their physician, the employer can realize a considerable savings by not being required to pay a middle man to have their employees medically treated.

For further information on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be delighted to work with you on this issue.

Vivian Mahoney, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT.


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