Missouri is one of the few states that does not impose a continuing education requirement for funeral directors. Where continuing education is required, the state funeral director association typically sponsors programs that satisfy the CE requirements, and provides revenues needed to supplement the association’s budget needs.
The passage of SB1 has provided the Missouri Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association with an opportunity to reach out to members (and non-members) with classes about the new law’s requirements. However, the MFDEA faces challenges in reaching the Missouri industry: attendance is not mandatory, the economy is down, funeral directors are taking a wait and see approach, and the interpretation of the law’s requirements by the Board/staff is muddled.
Since the law’s passage in August 2009, Board members and staff have expressed frustration with the industry. Funeral directors did not attend legislative hearings or Board meetings in the numbers that were anticipated. Response to the new licensing requirements has been slow, and accompanied by complaints.
The past two years have been demanding and time consuming for the Board and its staff. Those two years have been marked by trial and err processes, some of which have succeeded and some of which have been jettisoned. For an industry that rarely attends a Board meeting, the result has been confusing.
The proposed examination procedures discussed at the State Board’s October 27th meeting include controversial provisions that will likely change before the Board’s meetings in December. Reviewing every outstanding preneed contract of every seller would be time consuming and excessive. Under certain circumstances, such a procedure may be warranted. If a seller cannot provide indicia of what his outstanding preneed liability is, then the Board has no recourse but to look for every contract.
However, there will be an on site examination of every seller. And, there will be a review of at least a sampling of the seller’s contracts. The exam will also involve a review of the performed contracts. At the conclusion of the review, the examiner will conduct an exit interview to advise the seller of the findings. These minimum procedures will provide the Board and the staff an opportunity to educate each seller regarding issues on non-compliance. But, the next steps of the examination process will provide sellers an opportunity to educate the Board and its staff.
The examination procedures represent the best efforts of the staff, with input from the Board and other states’ preneed regulators. Preneed is not only unique from state to state, but often from seller to seller. And, there are Missouri funeral homes that will argue the current Board membership is not a fair representation of preneed sellers.
So, after the exit interview is conducted, the examiner will return to the Board offices to prepare a report. That report will be sent to the seller to so that it may provide comments, rebuttal and proposed corrections. Then the examiner and staff will have to opportunity to revise the report that is filed with the State Board. Then the Board will decide what actions should be taken. If the Board/staff and the seller are in disagreement, a hearing will follow.
The rebuttal report and Board hearing will provide sellers the crucial opportunity to educate the staff and the Board about practices and procedures that were not adequately addressed in the Chapter 436 hearings, or subsequent Board meetings. Pressures to pass a law, and then implement that law, have resulted in the Board (and staff) pushing aside issues. One on one with the Board, sellers will have the opportunity to slow the process down and address SB1 and how it’s being interpreted and applied. For staff that has only dealt with problem programs, or Board members familiar with their approach to preneed, the rebuttal report and hearing will continue Missouri’s preneed educational process.