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Is massage therapy covered under Michigan No Fault?

For massage therapy to be covered under No Fault, it must be related to a motor vehicle accident, and it must be ‘reasonably necessary,’ reasonably priced, and ‘lawfully rendered’

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In my nearly 20 years of practice as an insurance lawyer, I’ve been asked tons of questions about Michigan No Fault, and what PIP benefits No Fault will and will not cover. I can remember once about 15 years ago sitting as a case evaluator and being asked to decide if Michigan No Fault would cover several hundred dollars of “massage” receipts that one gentleman had compiled from a particularly notorious establishment off of I-94 (it didn’t). But just because No Fault didn’t cover the “Happy you-know-what” bills here, doesn’t mean massage is not an incredibly effective and important part of someone’s care and recovery after an automobile accident.

So, the question for today is can someone hurt in an auto accident seek and recover  massage therapy expenses by the victim’s No Fault auto insurance company.

The answer is “Yes.”

But, there are a few legal requirements before massage can be paid by No Fault.

Specifically, a person must be able to prove the following in order to have his or her auto accident-related massage therapy costs covered and paid for by No Fault benefits:

  • The massage therapy was “reasonably necessary” to the auto accident victim’s “care, recovery or rehabilitation.” (MCL 500.3107(1)(a))
  • The massage therapy charges were “reasonable.” (MCL 500.3107(1)(a))
  • The massage therapy services were “lawfully render[ed]” (MCL 500.3157), which means the person providing the massage therapy was a licensed massage therapist under Michigan’s Public Health Code. ‘

Michigan courts have ruled that a service such as massage therapy is “lawfully render[ed]” for purposes of the No Fault Law only if it’s provided “in compliance with licensing requirements.” (Cherry v. State Farm, Michigan Court of Appeals, 8/3/1992, #135963).

Incidentally, I personally believe most attorneys in this state have no idea that massage therapy can be paid under No Fault. The insurance companies have done a great job of intimidating many attorneys into thinking that massage isn’t covered by No Fault insurance.

Massage therapy license requirements under No Fault

Under Michigan law, “an individual shall not engage in the practice of massage therapy” or use the title of “massage therapist” (and other similar titles) “unless the individual is licensed under  the [Michigan Public Health Code] as a massage therapist.” (MCL 333.17953; 333.17957(1))

Massage therapy is defined as:

“[T]he application of a system of structured touch, pressure, movement, and holding to the soft tissue of the human body in which the primary intent is to enhance or restore the health and well-being of the client. Practice of massage therapy includes complementary methods, including the external application of water, heat, cold, lubrication, salt scrubs, body wraps, or other topical preparations; and electromechanical devices that mimic or enhance the actions possible by the hands. Practice of massage therapy does not include medical diagnosis; practice of physical therapy; high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust to a joint; electrical stimulation; application of ultrasound; or prescription of medicines.” (MCL 333.17951(1)(d))

Massage therapy does not include and, thus, a license is not required for the following “practices”:

  • The Feldenkrais method
  • The Trager approach
  • Polarity or polarity therapy
  • Asian bodywork therapy
  • Reiki
  • Shiatsu
  • Reflexology
  • Structural integration (MCL 333.17957(1)(a-d))

I’ll note that the list above has as much to do with the power of the state’s medical lobby and various special interests as it does with the efficacy of some of these massage treatments. Nevertheless, this is the law as it will apply today. And with the conservative nature of Michigan’s judiciary, I would not expect an expansive reading of what No Fault will cover in future litigation.

Related information:

Michigan Supreme Court prevents accident victims from receiving cutting-edge stem cell treatment

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