E-filing death certificates means fee for funeral homes

Posted at: 10/11/2013 8:04 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2013 8:12 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

The State of New York is joining dozens of other states and New York City in moving to electronic filing of death certificates.
The State of New York is joining dozens of other states and New York City in moving to electronic filing of death certificates.
Photo: Matt Soriano / WNYT

DELMAR -- An Albany County funeral director warned Friday that an "unfunded state mandate" may force him to raise the cost of funeral services, while those who pushed for the mandate argued it would actually save money in the end.

To fund the transition to an electronic filing system for death certificates, New York is imposing on funeral directors a new $20.00 fee per burial/removal. Some high volume funeral homes could end up paying thousands of dollars per year.

"Unfortunately we have to recoup the... fees that the state is imposing on me," Stephen Meyers, director of Meyers Funeral Home and Cremation Funeral Service, 741 Delaware Ave., told NewsChannel 13. "I have to unfortunately pass that on."

Though the law authorizing the fee specifies that it "shall be considered a cost of operation and the funeral director or undertaker shall not charge any additional fee" to clients, Meyers said he should be able to hike the cost of a funeral by $20.00 as long as he doesn't list the charge as a cash advance.

Assemblymember Phil Steck (D - Colonie), who sponsored the legislation, told NewsChannel 13 he is not sure if Meyers can be penalized for doing that.

The New York State Funeral Directors Association (NYSFDA) had lobbied for the new law, arguing that funeral directors could spend more time with grieving families if they are not driving to doctors offices and city halls to file carbon paper copies of death certificates.

NYSFDA Deputy Executive Director Randy McCullough said Meyers is not a member of the organization, and that his opinion is not widely shared.

"I would say that he's in the extreme minority," McCullough said. "At the end of the day, I have every confidence that (passing along the fee to families) will not happen. That's something that's in the law, and that's also something that we did not agree to and argued very strongly against."

Funeral directors will end up saving money through reduced gasoline and personnel costs, McCullough said.

The new system -- called the Electronic Death Registration System -- is set to take effect in 2015, but the state is collecting the fee now to pay for its development and implementation, NYSFDA said.

In the end, Meyers said he may be forced to recoup the new burial/removal permit fee by raising rates -- and he said his accountant is looking into whether that will be viewed as a hike in revenue, which could raise his corporate taxes.

"I see it as a money grab for the state," Meyers said.