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Massage Today
July, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 07

Massage Board and MBLEx Under Fire

By Christie Bondurant

Budget cuts and a new amendment to an Oregon bill threaten the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists (OBMT) along with the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), the current primary exam accepted for licensure in Oregon.

The seemingly innocuous House Bill 2059 requires health professional licensees to report prohibited conduct of another licensee to regulatory boards. But it has now caught the attention of some major massage therapy associations due to a recent amendment that came as a surprise to the associations.

The bill, introduced late last year, has meandered unopposed through various bodies of government for about five months, until May when the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) proposed an amendment to the bill requiring the OBMT to accept their national certification exams. The new amendment, HB 2059-A7, states: "The board shall accept passage of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork examination of another board-approved national standardized examination as meeting the written examination requirement contained in this paragraph."

Massage Board and MBLEx Under Fire - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The Senate Committee on Health Care and Veterans Affairs held a public hearing discussing the bill on May 12, 2009. Representatives from the NCBTMB were there to propose the amendment to the committee as well as outwardly make accusations against the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) portraying the association as a for-profit insurance company. The ABMP was not present at the hearing to testify in defense and was unaware of the new amendment until after the hearing.

The next day, the ABMP released a statement addressing the members of the committee. In the letter, Jean Robinson, ABMP government relations director, called NCBTMB representative Jackson Williams' claims against the ABMP false and added background and explanation to the genesis of the MBLEx.

Robinson wrote: "In his testimony, Jackson Williams, the representative from the NCBTMB, characterized ABMP as a for-profit insurance company that masterminded an elaborate scheme to create a new exam, an easier one than the national certification exam offered by NCBTMB, in order to 'increase the number of licensees so they can regulate more people, collect more fees, sell more liability insurance policies.'"

Robinson added: "Unfortunately, the committee only heard the NCBTMB's perspective, which differs from most in the profession. The NCBTMB lobbied for more than ten years pursuing and persuading states to adopt the NCBTMB exam as a de facto licensing exam and were successful in maintaining their monopoly and power over the profession. ... Years ago the massage regulatory and education communities approached the NCBTMB board with serious concerns about administration of the exam, incompetent customer service issues causing applicants delay in entering the profession, and the NCBTMB creating policies that did not comply with existing statures in states. NCBTMB ignored the concerns and did nothing to improve their processes. The regulatory boards had no other choice than to form their own organization and develop their own examination."

When asked to comment about the amendment as well as the accusations made against the ABMP, the NCBTMB released this statement: "We are pleased that the Senate Health Committee of the Oregon Legislature voted to restore recognition of the National Certification Exam for licensure purposes. This Committee, which is comprised of health policy experts, heard from all stakeholders and weighed the arguments pro and con. Our sense was that the senators found that the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists was unable to offer a convincing rationale for refusing to allow applicants to choose our exam. ... We look forward to building a productive working relationship with the Board going forward." NCBTMB chose not to comment further on Williams' claims against the ABMP.

However, the exam is not the only concern on MBLEx supporter's minds nor is it the only large issue facing the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists. In the current struggle to address a $4.4 billion budget gap, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is proposing cutting costs by eliminating certain state bodies, including the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists. In a speech addressing the city club of Portland on May 15, Gov. Kulongoski compared the state's financial status to the current American car manufacturer's financial woes. He said, "GM is going to have to live without Pontiac even though there are probably millions of loyal supporters too. I get that. But the money simply isn't there anymore. Some government functions have to go, at least for the foreseeable future. Oregon state government can no longer be all things to all people. That's why I am asking the Legislature to suspend a wide variety of agencies, boards and commissions." The Oregon Board of Massage Therapists was included in the governor's list of boards to be suspended.

Without a board to regulate licensing examinations, then HB 2059, if passed, would require the NCBTMB exam to be taken.

For information on the 2009-11 budget including a summary analysis of the governor's recommended budget go to: www.leg.state.or.us/budget/home.htm.

 

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