Montana running amok. . .again

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For the backstory on Montana's war on affordable funerals, see:

Montana Funeral Directors Try to Shut Down Competition

Montana: The Divine Right of Undertakers II

The state's funeral industry and its regulatory handmaidens just won't quit. The latest? Proposed revisions to the Board of Funeral Service's regulations that would sneakily put low-cost, direct-to-consumer crematories out of business. How? By making it illegal for a crematory operator to do the most basic, necessary tasks on his own :

  • Crematory operators would be barred from removing pacemakers (which state law requires, and which could blow up if not removed before cremation) unless they did so in a fully-equipped embalming room in a full-service mortuary. This would be like offering a Jiffy Lube from changing a car's oil unless it did so in a full-service car dealership with diagnostic computers and emissions-control equipment.

    Since no full-service mortuary is going to let a crematory competitor use its embalming room, or would charge a fee, or since the embalming room would be physically distant, this effectively prohibits cremation businesses from operating independent of a competitor.

  • Crematory operators could not even wash, dress, or comb the hair of a deceased person outside the walls of a full-embalming suite at a full-service mortuary. 

  • Anyone selling any kind of funeral—full-service, basic, or cremation-only—could only discuss it with the customer within the physical building of a full service funeral home or branch, unless otherwise requested by the customer. No, it doesn't make much sense to us either, but it appears to be another way to make business impossible for honest, reasonably priced businesses like Central Montana Crematorium

Here's our letter to the state board, which we've also sent to the Governor's office. 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 July 2013 14:59 )  
Comments (3)
1 Monday, 06 May 2013 17:56
jane hillhouse
Good job Josh.
Such nice clear writing!!
2 Friday, 31 May 2013 10:39
Burke Johnson
Help me undestand something, FCA. In this report you are fighting to allow additional funeral establishments to open as to increase competion. However, in your article "An Oversaturated Market" you seem to be adamant that Montana already has twice the number of funeral establishments that are reasonable and that an increased number of funeral establishments directly correlate to unreasonably high prices. Which philosophy should the followers of the FCA be embracing?
3 Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:52
Josh Slocum
Good question. First, no one should automatically follow any philosophy, obviously.

The trouble with the funeral market is that:

a). There *are* too many rooftops, on average, to support a profitable business and supply the death rate. It's simple arithmetic.

b). Most of those rooftops are old-guard funeral homes that are fighting to keep a monopoly on market share.

c). One of the ways they do this is by getting laws passed that restrict competition.

So, yes, there are too many funeral homes, but in order for the market to correct that the market needs to allow new types of businesses to open and compete. Like all large problems, this one is "lumpy," not a smooth puree. At any given time a town may have "too many" or "not enough" funeral homes as marketplaces change. That's not the same as looking at the broad, national average.

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