Senators aim to rectify loss of 55,000 Missourians' coverage
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Senators aim to rectify loss of 55,000 Missourians' coverage

Date: March 2, 2009
By: Nathan Higgins
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SS SB 1

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Senators aim to rectify loss of 55,000 Missourians' coverage

Date: March 2, 2009
By: Nathan Higgins
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SS SB 1, HB 853

Intro: After little opposition in the Senate, the House is now discussing a bill that regulates the pre-need funeral coverage industry, making it harder for just anyone to sell coverage.

Nathan Higgins has more from Jefferson City.

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OutCue: SOC

About 55,000 Missourians were without coverage once National Prearranged Services went bankrupt last year after using investment dollars for personal gain.

These people invested money with N-P-S to arrange their funerals and cover related costs like flowers and coffins.

The Senate passed a bill in February that would require licenses for funeral home providers and companies that sell insurance.

Bill Sponsor Republican Senator Delbert Scott said requiring agents to pass a test on funeral home law ensures these contracts are legitimate.

 

Actuality:  DELBERT2.WAV
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Description: "Under current law, they can hire anybody off the street to sell a pre-need contract. We felt like it was important that if you were going to make sales typically to elderly people, you ought to know a little bit about the funeral home business and what you're selling."

Scott said educating agents will be the biggest consumer safeguard.

Under current law, sellers can keep twenty-percent of all invested funds.

The new measure reduces that amount to five-percent, leaving more money for consumers.

Scott also said the measure ensures the original investment covers funeral costs at the time of death.

Actuality:  DELBERT5.WAV
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Description: "Our effort all along has been to make sure that when consumers buy a pre-need product, if they live a year or thirty years, that product, the quality of what they bought is going to be there."

Scott said although consumers did lose coverage, funeral homes took the biggest hit.

Under this legislation, funeral homes will get enough money to cover its expenses if a consumer decides to break their contract.

Only a few senators voted against the bill, including Southern Missouri Democratic Senator Frank Barnitz who said he wanted stricter regulations.

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Description: I just don't know if we did the right thing by still allowing for a percentage of that money to be withheld from those individuals.

Joplin Republican Senator Gary Nodler agreed the industry needs regulation but said the measure is aimed at national funeral operators and negatively effects small funeral homes.

The bill moved to the House, where it was read and sent to committee for further discussion.

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Nathan Higgins.


Intro: A Missouri Senate committee has moved a bill to the Senate floor that would regulate pre-need funeral contracts.

Nathan Higgins has more from the State Capitol.

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OutCue: SOC

The action came after St. Louis based National Prearranged Services went bankrupt, leaving 55,000 Missourians without coverage.

Despite unanimous approval, Kansas City Republican Senator Luann Ridgeway said she is concerned about existing businesses.

 

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Description: Somewhere down the road they are probably going to get a rule. And you all who were in the regulated industry are going to come unglued because the fees are high.


The costs include registration fees and licenses for funeral directors, sellers, and providers.

Other committee members say the costs are necessary to ensure safety and security for consumers.

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Nathan Higgins.


Intro: Although a bill for pre-need funeral coverage won unanimous approval by a Senate Committee, one Missouri Senator isn't quite sold.

Nathan Higgins has more from Jefferson City. 

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The bill creates regulation for the industry after 55,000 Missourians lost the pre-need coverage they paid for.

Republican Senator Jane Cunningham says the bill is risky and anti-consumer.

 

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Description: I almost feel like we should have a bill that disallows pre-need funeral sales in the state of Missouri.


Republican Senator Matt Bartle agrees with Cunningham saying consumers should beware that coverage isn't completely secure and regulation will cause more fees.

However, Republican Senator Delbert Scott who sponsored the bill, says the revised bill provides more security for consumers and will help the industry.

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Nathan Higgins.


Intro: The attempt to regulate pre-need funeral coverage received a boost as a Senate committee moved the bill to the Senate floor.

Nathan Higgins has more from the State Capitol.

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OutCue: SOC

A company that failed to provide coverage to 55,000 Missourians prompted the legislation to regulate the industry. 

Executive Director of the Division of Professional Registration Kim Grinston said the bill will ensure security of the coverage.    

Actuality:  GRIN4.WAV
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Description: If I purchased a ten-thousand dollar funeral, that contract says I get that ten-thousand dollar funeral no matter what that cost says if it's a guaranteed contract.
 
Grinston says the regulation ensures consumers get what they paid for.

However, Republican Senator Matt Bartle says the bill is still too risky for consumers who want pre-need funeral coverage.

Reporting from the State Capital, I'm Nathan Higgins.