News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 22, 2013

Indiana Dietitian bill being hotly debated

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A bill that would create a state license for registered dietitians is being hotly debated before the Indiana General Assembly.

The bill, if it becomes law, would create standards for registered dietitians as a way of better protecting the public, according to its supporters. The bill’s opponents believe it is a tactic to squeeze out competition and funnel nutrition dollars to registered dietitians at the expense of other nutrition professionals.

Rao Ivaturi has a Ph.D. in human nutrition and a large nutrition practice in Terre Haute through the UAP Clinic, the Providence Medical Group and his own busy private office. He has seen about 1,300 patients in the past two years, he said.

Ivaturi calls the bill, H.B. 1272, a “turf” protection measure. It would hinder his and other nutritionists’ ability to receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement for their services, he said.

Judy Stone, legislative policy director for the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists, agrees.

“Once a state institutes licensure … if one group is licensed and the other isn’t, the federal guidelines say that you can only get Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement if you’re licensed,” Stone said. She would like certified nutrition specialists and other board-certified master’s- and Ph.D.-level clinical nutritionists to be included in the licensing bill, she said.

But Hanna Kelley, executive director of the Indiana Dietetic Association in Muncie, said the bill would simply set standards and a “scope of practice” for registered dietitians, something she said would benefit consumers.

“I feel that scope of practice is really essential,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be a great service to the public to know there is an option for them to seek care from a professional [who’s] being monitored by the state. There’s no license for Indiana to take away [under current law] if I commit malpractice,” she said.

H.B. 1272 could face a vote in the Indiana House as early as today, Stone said, adding she has been in Indiana three times recently to speak to legislators about the bill.

“What [registered dietitians] are effectively doing is economically choking out other nutrition professionals” with the same “scope of practice,” Stone said. Under the Affordable Care Act, nutrition is going to become more commonly covered by insurance, she noted. “It’s a real turf protection issue.”

But Kelley disagrees. The bill being debated in Indiana is simply setting professional standards for registered dietitians, she said.

“We’re not trying to hinder practice for nutritionists of any kind,” Kelley said. “Whether they are certified nutritionists or someone who works for a health food store. We really just worry about dietitians.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, registered dietitians have at least an undergraduate degree and often work in community education or food service management settings, including nursing homes and hospitals. Most get advanced degrees.

Also according to the Tribune, certified nutrition specialists have advanced degrees, such as a master’s or Ph.D., and use nutrition therapy to address health needs. They must pass the certified board for nutrition specialists exam on science-based nutrition therapy.



Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com