Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/10/1999 01:45 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
SENATE BILL NO. 88                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
An Act relating to licensure of dietitians and                                                                                  
nutritionists; and providing for an effective date.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
HANS NEIDIG, STAFF, SENATOR DAVE DONLEY, stated that SB 88                                                                      
would codify professional title licensure of dietitians and                                                                     
nutritionists, while helping to ensure the quality of such                                                                      
services and protecting consumers.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SB 88 represents sound public policy because it protects                                                                        
Alaskans from the potential harm that could be caused by                                                                        
untrained individuals working in the field.  This would be                                                                      
accomplished by having standards which differentiate between                                                                    
individuals who are qualified nutritionists and dietitians                                                                      
and those who are not.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Neidig noted that SB 88 contains provisions which ensure                                                                    
that individuals practicing nutrition, obtain a bachelor's,                                                                     
masters or doctoral degrees from an accredited school to                                                                        
work in Alaska.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Neidig advised that the licensing of dietitians and                                                                         
nutritionist enables the public to identify individuals who                                                                     
are qualified by education, experience and examination to                                                                       
provide nutrition care services.  Recognition defines the                                                                       
dietetics and nutrition practice which includes the                                                                             
integration and application of the principles derived from                                                                      
the sciences of nutrition, biochemistry, food physiology,                                                                       
management and behavioral and social sciences to achieve and                                                                    
maintain the health of the citizens of Alaska.  He pointed                                                                      
out that the bill would not establish a new board.  The                                                                         
licensing program will be conducted by the Division of                                                                          
Occupational Licensing and will have no cost to the State.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster asked if the nutritionists that live                                                                      
in village areas would be responsible to fly to Anchorage                                                                       
every couple of years to update their certification.  Mr.                                                                       
Neidig replied that there is no examination requirement.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CATHERINE REARDON, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF OCCUPATIONAL                                                                           
LICENSING, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT,                                                                     
corrected that there is an examine for only the initial                                                                         
license; there is no obligation to take it more than once.                                                                      
The applicant will be paying for the national test directly,                                                                    
not through State government and that the test would be                                                                         
offered only in Anchorage.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
(Tape Change HFC 99 - 122, Side 2).                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster voiced concern for those individual                                                                       
nutritionists who have been working in the field, who do not                                                                    
have the accredited dietitian or nutritionist requirements.                                                                     
He asked if they would be "grandfathered" in.  Ms. Reardon                                                                      
stated that would need to be a policy decision for the                                                                          
Legislature.  A "practice" restriction could be placed in                                                                       
the legislation, or employers could have the option to                                                                          
change the titles of those employees.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
LINDA WILD, ALASKA DIETETIC ASSOCIATION, JUNEAU, testified                                                                      
that the Alaska Dietetic Association strongly supports the                                                                      
legislation.  Currently, thirty-nine states have some form                                                                      
of licensing of dietitians and nutritionists.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There are two main reasons for supporting the license                                                                           
dietitians and nutritionists.  The proposed legislation                                                                         
recently reintroduced in Congress that would provide                                                                            
coverage in the outpatient portion of the federally funded                                                                      
Medicare program for medical nutrition therapy services, a                                                                      
75 cent phrase for nutrition therapy, furnished by                                                                              
registered dietitians and qualified nutrition professionals.                                                                    
Currently, Medicare provides reimbursement for nutrition                                                                        
services only in portion A, or in the hospital portion of                                                                       
the program.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Wild continued, the reason dietitians care about this is                                                                    
that the proposed legislation stipulates that reimbursable                                                                      
services be provided by dietitians or nutrition                                                                                 
professionals who are licensed in the states in which they                                                                      
work.  She stressed that dietitians and nutritionists must                                                                      
be part of the health care team, and they need to be                                                                            
licensed.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
The proposed change to Medicare is one of the big reasons                                                                       
there has been a push in recent years to license dietitians                                                                     
and nutritionists, in addition to the increasing emphasis on                                                                    
preventative health care.  Good nutrition is a big part of                                                                      
that prevention.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Wild continued, an additional reason for the requesting                                                                     
the licensure is professional recognition.  Licensure will                                                                      
put nutrition professionals on an equal footing with other                                                                      
professionals.  The bill before the Committee is known as                                                                       
"title licensure" or "title protection".  This means that                                                                       
only those professionals meeting the educational and                                                                            
experience criteria will be licensed as dietitians and                                                                          
nutritionists.  The bill would hold minimum qualifications                                                                      
for professionals in the field and would provide guidance to                                                                    
the public.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative Grussendorf asked if there was work                                                                              
experience which could fulfill criteria needed to obtain the                                                                    
license.  Ms. Wild replied that staff working in the school                                                                     
system is not required to be licensed, however, those with                                                                      
job titles of dietitian or nutritionist would need to have                                                                      
the license.  She did not know of any people in the State of                                                                    
Alaska, who had those job titles that would qualify for                                                                         
licensing.  Ms. Wild pointed out that there is another                                                                          
category called "diet tech", which does not require                                                                             
licensure.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Therriault questioned what restrictions would the                                                                      
legislation implement.  Ms. Wild explained that the bill                                                                        
would require any person calling themselves a dietitian or                                                                      
nutritionist be licensed.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
In response to concerns voiced by Representative Foster, Ms.                                                                    
Wild explained that the examination would allow a person to                                                                     
become a registered dietitian.  It could be taken in                                                                            
Anchorage and would be a one time only test.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Kohring inquired if industry was requesting                                                                      
the proposed legislation.  Ms. Wild replied that "shock" had                                                                    
been voiced with the $410 biannual fee request, but are                                                                         
confident that will be for the first cycle only.  After                                                                         
that, there will be renewal charges, a more simple process.                                                                     
She advised that there is strong support for the                                                                                
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster MOVED to report CSSB 88 (FIN) out of                                                                      
Committee with individual recommendations and with the                                                                          
accompanying fiscal note.  There being NO OBJECTION, it was                                                                     
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CS SB 88 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with "no                                                                           
recommendation" and with a fiscal note by Department of                                                                         
Commerce and Economic Development dated 4/7/99.                                                                                 

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