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Dietician licensure bill heads to governor

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A billthat passed the state Legislature Wednesday would require a license from the state to practice medical nutritional therapy.

Supporters say requiring licensure for dietitians would help get health insurance companies to pay for medical nutrition therapy.

Democratic Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) sponsored the bill. She said health outcomes suffer when people can't access that care.

"Making sure that registered dietitians can practice within their scope and be reimbursed to do so is a huge step forward in making sure that this level of health care is accessible and affordable for people,” Pohutsky said.

The legislation would also restrict who can refer to themselves as a “dietitian” or a “nutritionist.”

That would mean some people who currently practice as “nutritionists” wouldn’t be able to use that title anymore without training to become a “dietitian nutritionist.”

Republican Senator Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp) worked on the original effort years ago to end licensure for dietitians. He says bringing it back would hurt nutritionists who aren’t eligible for licensure.

“I’m not sure why we’re doing this. Why we’re waging in on a turf war over who can give advice on how much vitamin C to take, or whether you should eat pasta or red meat or not,” McBroom said.

During the committee process, some nutritionists raised concerns that they would no longer be able to practice in Michigan because they took a different education track than dietitians.

Senator Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) said the bill would unfairly benefit dietitians over nutritionists.

“This bill cuts out the nutritionists. And I believe that’s simply a matter of stopping competition,” Runestad said.

The bill would create exemptions for providing non-medical nutrition information and guidance.

Pohutksy said the bill doesn’t stop nutritionists from doing their jobs.

“There are pretty robust exemptions within the bill that allow nutritionists to continue practicing within their scope. But what it does not allow them to do is practice outside of their scope,” Pohutksy said.

The bill now heads to the governor after passing the Senate Wednesday with some bipartisan support.

Colin Jackson is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.