Missouri will look to a combination of licensing fees from preneed sellers, providers and agents to fund a portion of the projected costs of preneed oversight under SB1. But, most of SB1’s enforcement price will be funded by the $36 to be charged for each preneed contract sold. The ‘per contract’ fee is not new to the Missouri preneed industry, but the fee does represent a substantial increase from the $2 charged under the prior law.
According to State Board’s statistics, the Missouri preneed industry has sold an average of more than 22,000 preneed contracts each year during the past 6 years. Using that average, the new per contract fee will increase the State Board’s annual budget by more than $750,000. Appropriately, consumers and death care companies are asking how this budget will be used.
Another question is who should bare this expense. When the fee was at $2, many funeral homes absorbed that cost. But in today’s economy, the fee represents an expense that many funeral directors can no longer absorb. One of the proposed emergency rules reflects the division that exists between the Attorney General and some the State Board members with regard to how this new fee should be assessed.
With the purchase price of a preneed contract based on the funeral home’s current prices, a preneed seller must already absorb the costs of developing and maintaining a compliant program. Funeral homes and cemeteries must also bare a portion of SB1’s costs through new licensing fees. By passing the per contract fee on to consumers, the death care industry can begin to make regulators accountable to the public for the oversight they plan to provide for the preneed consumer.