Iowa bill would remove licensing requirement for barbers, funeral directors, therapists

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Barbers, social workers and funeral directors may not need a license to practice in Iowa much longer.

House Study Bill 138 would remove the licensing requirement for a number of professions, including massage therapists, athletic trainers, mental health counselors, social workers, dieticians, and respiratory care workers.

Gov. Branstad's office says about one-third of the state's workers are licensed, the highest level in the country. Leaders argue that the added licensure expense prevents some people from entering the workforce.

"This negatively impacts women, minorities, lower income Iowans. We need to address these barriers to entry that licensing causes," said communications director Ben Hammes.

However, many healthcare professionals say they're worried about what these changes could mean for patient care.

"If you're on life support, you would actually want somebody who knows how to manipulate life support, versus somebody that's just turning knobs," said Mikel O'Klock, manager of respiratory care at Genesis Hospital.

As a manager, O'Klock said licensing helps with the hiring process, as well.

"The training is immense, and if I have a person with a state licensure, then I know they've met the requirements, education and training needed to do the profession," said O'Klock.

Genesis leaders say they will be in Des Moines in the coming weeks to lobby against the bill.