Health professions seek tags

October 5, 2009
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Dr. Leonard Wright, administrative medical director of Spectrum Health Hospice, is waiting for state regulations that will govern the registration of those who practice acupuncture.

A leader in alternative therapies in Grand Rapids, Wright was appointed to the state acupuncture board after the Legislature approved a bill to allow registration of practitioners in 2006.

But the process has been bogged down and emotions have run high as those in the profession hammer out their differences over education requirements and other issues, Wright said. The next step is an anticipated ruling from state Attorney General Mike Cox, he said.

As a step below licensing, “registration allows the person to use ‘acupuncturist’ in advertising and in their sales stuff,’ Wright said.

Acupuncture is just one of five health professions in the queue for state registration or licensing. Under Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the number of professions seeking licensure has grown, said Melanie Brim, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Bureau of Health Professions.

Former Gov. John Engler, put the brakes on adding new professions requiring licensure in a stance opposed to more state regulation, Brim said.

“There were many attempts to get licensure but always vetoed at the end of the day by the governor,” she said.

For about 10 years, none were added. Eight professions have been added since Granholm took office in 2003, Brim said.

Currently, procedures are pending for acupuncturists, athletic trainers, dieticians and nutritionists, massage therapists and speech-language pathologists.

“With the change in administration, I think Gov. Granholm took a little bit more open viewpoint and began to entertain, or be at least willing to hear, dialog and read analyses of the value in regulating a particular profession.”

Professions may request legislation for licensing or certification for a variety of reasons, Brim said. It may be to enhance credibility with the public, to enforce rules on those who don’t meet standards, or to ensure reimbursement from insurance companies, she said.

In considering whether to support a profession’s bid, one of the first questions to be answered is the level of potential harm to the public, she said.

Today, about 30 health-related professions require licensing, from acupuncturists to veterinarians.

Brim said her department has added two full-time equivalent positions to handle the additional licensees. License fees cover the state’s costs, Brim said.

Even though the Legislature has approved the additions and Granholm has signed the corresponding laws, there is a lag time before licensing can be implemented, Brim explained.

“When laws gets passed establishing these, they usually set an effective date that is often immediate or in six months,” Brim said. “We have to wait for the governor to appoint a board, we have to promulgate the administrative rules … a 12- to 18-month process.

“It’s always disappointing to the profession waiting to be regulated. There so many steps, public hearings and those kinds of things, there’s no way it can be orchestrated faster.”

Acupuncturists, athletic trainers and dieticians and nutritionists have been waiting since 2006, while laws approving licensure for massage therapists and speech-language pathologists have been on the books since 2008. HQ

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