I have no lack of material for this newsletter article. We have been very busy since the first of the year. We have had our Mid-Winter Advocacy Summit, the 2019 Legislative Session, discussions with the state Attorney General, the Medical Examiner’s office, the State Registrar’s office, the WV Pre-need Funeral Trust and the upcoming 2019 Convention.
This year’s event was well attended and very informative. Matt Izzo from the WV Medical Examiner’s office gave an informative presentation about equipment the office is getting such as electronic fingerprint apparatus and a full body imaging scanner. With the fingerprint equipment it will greatly decrease the need to cut ligaments in the wrist to get fingerprints and the body scanner will help pinpoint where the doctor needs to concentrate his efforts and make for autopsies that might not require making such large incisions. He also shared that our concerns about how our funeral homes were receiving remains and this led to the Chief Medical Examiner conducting an instructional course on how to not make our task of embalming harder than necessary when it comes to vessels and such. The have received grants to help fund more personnel that will be able to help with administrative tasks and with procedural tasks. Matt also went over the information required to receive payment from the state on transportation to and from the Medical Examiner’s office.
We made our annual trip to the Capitol where we visited with our funeral director State Senator Kenny Mann where we were able to ask questions about the session and have a photo opportunity in the Senate chamber. This year the WV Attorney General called and invited our group for a meeting where we discussed a wide range of topics. A question concerning how much money was in the pre-need guarantee fund and were told the fund continues to grow and that half is invested and half can be paid out immediately. The non-invested fund is $731,220 and the invested fund is $742,507. We were told it’s pretty safe just to combine these numbers for a liquid total since the investments can be withdrawn fairly quickly.
The legislative reception attendance was down from the previous year. The House called a floor session the day of the reception at 7pm and it lasted about an hour. Our event was from 7-9pm and it affected our event. We had received close to 75 RSVP’s from legislators, but those in attendance were able to have quality time with the politicians that made it a priority to attend.
2019 Legislative Session
This year’s session began January 9, 2019 and will conclude March 9, 2019. Each year there averages almost 2,000 bills introduced. This year started off with a bill that would allow non-licensed individuals to conduct business that you have to have a license for as long as the customer signed a waiver acknowledging that the person they were working with was unlicensed and it was acceptable with them. We quickly acted on this bill and stopped it in its tracks. There are a couple of other bills that have been completed such as allowing the use of schools for funerals for military, emergency services, and other cases (counties will set the standards) and a second bill that has be legislatively completed addresses the topic of boards (such as our WV Board of Funeral Service Examiners) are not allowed to employ a lobbyist, however; the board members and the administration of the board are allowed to lobby on behalf of the board.
We are receiving complaints about the amount of time it is taking to get registered death certificates from Vital Registration. They have reassured our office that they are working as diligently as they can with the staff with they have and have even came in on Saturday’s to try to catch up.
Electronic Death Records System
Which encompasses not only Death Certificates, but also Birth Certificates just wrapped up the RFP (request for proposal) phase. The next move will be for the State Registrar to recommend the company that best suites the needs of the state, followed by three approvals within various departments of the DHHR and finally contract approval by the states Attorney General’s office. While it does appear that there is a lot of work still to do….it is in the pipeline and it is on the move.
West Virginia Pre-Need Funeral Trust
It has come to my attention that when completing a WVPNFT claim some funeral homes were waiting for a registered death certificate (with a raised seal) to come back from Charleston before sending it along with the account valuation to be processed for payment. We pride ourselves in providing sound claims procedures, but still want to process claims as quickly as possible. This dilemma was looked into a few years back and it was determined that a certified death certificate (signed by the doctor and with the cause of death) would be acceptable. The certified death certificate along with the account valuation information can be used to submit your claim for payment. You may also use the Trust’s EFT option to receive payment even faster. If you have any questions, please contact me.
West Virginia Board of Funeral Service Examiners
Your licensing board is now fully in place including the citizen member. Their next meeting is March 12, 2019 at 1pm at the board office. This meeting is an open meeting and I hope to see many of my fellow funeral directors there. I have found these meetings to be informative.
2019 WVFDCOA Convention
Our 2019 Convention will be at Glade Springs June 4th and 5th. We have a full slate of continuing education, recreational opportunities, our Installation of new officers and a great venue to catch up with old friends and to make new friends.
Just for your information
In 2017 there were 22,576 deaths that occurred in WV. Of this total number of deaths, 8,338 were cremations for a total of 36.9%.
Of all deaths less than 12% of these deaths were Hospice involved.
As of March 1, 2019 the DHHR reported having 1.5 million dollars of approximately 2-million-dollar Indigent Burial fund available. It appears at this rate there will be enough funds to make it to the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2019).
Thank you for supporting your Association in all that we do and as always if our office can help out in any way, please let us know. Have a great Summer.
Rob Kimes, CFSP, CCO