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September 2012 Newsletter

Massage Therapy

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Changes to massage therapy & their impact to your group benefits plan

Massage is a popular way to relax or recover from injury, however, there are a number of changes occurring within Alberta, and the massage therapy profession.

Unlike Ontario, British Columbia & Newfoundland, Alberta does not regulate massage therapy as an occupation, and because of this, practitioners have a varying amount of training – basically, anyone can practice massage in the province. Insurance carriers are looking for demonstration of competence, type and amount of education, insurance acceptance and regulation of the profession.

As a result, some insurance carriers are implementing a new standard. In order for claims to be paid, a massage therapy practitioner must be registered with an approved association which requires 2,200 hours of formal education or corresponding training – equivalent to a two-year diploma. These changes will bring the Alberta industry to the same level as other jurisdictions.

As of October 1st, 2012, Manulife will require massage therapists in Canada to have 2,200 hours training or a demonstrated equivalent to that standard.

Manulife is not alone, Sun Life has already implemented the change and refused claims from therapists who don’t meet the standard. Alberta Blue Cross will change its requirements May 1st, 2013.

There are several Massage Therapy Associations in Alberta, but not all of them meet the above mentioned 2,200 hours of education and other stringent criteria. In Alberta, there are three associations which meet this criteria and insurance carriers will require massage therapist practitioners to be registered with any of these associations;

London & Countries Society of Physiologists
Massage Therapist Association of Alberta (MTAA)
Remedial Massage Therapists Association (RMTA)
The new standard may make it more difficult to find a massage therapist whose services can be billed to insurance. Some therapists won’t qualify, and will need to upgrade in order to meet the new standard. Receiving a massage from an unlicensed/untrained practitioner may result in further injury or escalation of your medical issue, and a denied claim.

Here are a few helpful hints for finding a recognized Massage Therapist;

The therapist should be willing to conduct a preliminary interview with you
The therapist should be certified by one of the above associations
The massage therapist should carry malpractice and liability insurance
The massage therapist must operate in a clean and accessible location
Does the massage therapist expect you to complete a health history prior to treatment?
The therapist should provide a receipt that includes their name, a detailed description of the services performed, address and telephone number and a RMT/license number on it for your insurance claim
Sources: Calgary Herald (July 26, 2012), Sun Life Bulletin (July 11, 2012), Manulife Bulletin (May 2012), Alberta Blue Cross Bulletin (May 2012)