Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Funeral Homes Grumble Over Post-'Wild West' Era COVID-19 Reforms 

05/15/24 01:20 PM By Team MIRS

(Source MIRS.news, Published 05/14/2024) A House panel is looking to wrangle together post-mortem care regulations amid an atmosphere described by Paul Gittler, CEO of Macomb County-based funeral home provider Heritage Services, as the “Wild West.” 


Gittler said he knows of bodies coming out of the back of vans at intersections because the drivers couldn't close the back of the vehicles. 


“Bodies are going missing at hospitals, and they turn up in dumpsters," he said. 


"This has been in the news… and I feel that the licensing is definitely needed to clean this all up,” he added. 


Gittler was testifying in support of Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe)’s SB 544 and SB 545, which together prohibit the operation of a refrigeration facility or removal service for dead human bodies without a license issued by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).  


Currently, the only industry licensing requirement is a two-year courtesy license for funeral directors who want to work in Michigan, according to Klinefelt's team.  


The bill, which would only apply to standalone refrigeration facilities and not funeral homes with their own storage on site, would only allow refrigeration and removal services to operate when contracting with a health facility, medical examiner, medical school, higher education institution or funeral establishment. 


Companies would need to allow a two-year license, and have licensed mortuary scientists on staff to oversee handling and sheltering at refrigeration facilities.  


The licensure application would cost $225, the license and registration would cost $300 every two years, the one-time inspection fee would cost $300 and if a removal service has additional vehicles, each would cost $50 to inspect.  


The legislation would address an increased number of removal services and facilities that began popping up during the COVID-19 pandemic to address overflow, said Jared ROZYCKI, director of government relations for the Michigan Funeral Directors Association.  


He said the proposed legislation was modeled after Florida’s similar licensing and regulation process.  


“Throughout the pandemic, removal services and refrigeration facilities were vital in offering work storage solutions and transportation services for funeral homes, hospitals and nursing homes that were at full capacity,” he said. “Since then, these entities have continued to evolve and expand their business operations, mainly serving as adjunct morgues for hospitals and nursing homes. Due to the nature of their work, these companies would benefit from operating under a much needed state oversight, and that just currently does not exist here in Michigan.”  


Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden) asked, “In a hypothetical, we have a cooler in our orchard, and we lost our apple crop this year. But I could just go up to a funeral home and say, "hey, you want to stack dead people in here, and I could just turn on the cooler and do it and not be regulated?”  


“Absolutely,” Rozycki said.  


“Sounds pretty gross,” Mueller responded.  


The bills were supported by LARA, which anticipated needing two additional full-time positions to handle licensing and regulation.  


They were also supported by the Health Care Association of Michigan and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. 


Other actions taken in committee included:  


- Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores)’s SB 602, a bill specifying when a right-to-list home sale agreement is void and unenforceable, was voted out with support from the Michigan Realtors Association.  


- Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing)’s SB 702, which bumps up mandatory training hours to become a licensed skin care technician from 400 to 750, was voted out.  


The bill was opposed by Alasdair Whitney, legal counsel for the Institute of Justice, who said substantially increasing training program hours would cause cosmetology programs to increase tuition and fees, which would offset the bill’s goal of helping more students qualify for financial aid.  


- Former Rep. Lori Stone’s HB 5156, which updates concussion training requirements and other regulations within mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing, was voted out with a technical correction on when application fees should be submitted. 


- Rep. Tullio Liberati, Jr. (D-Allen Park)’s HB 5683 and HB 5684, which expands the services that can be performed by licensed estheticians and cosmetologists without the supervision of a physician, were taken up for testimony.  


The bills would end the restriction on procedures like dermaplaning, chemical peels, eyebrow and eyelash tinting or lamination and facial cupping, along with removing spray tans from the list of banned tanning equipment.  


Liberati said the legislation would put into place practices that 40 other states already follow, and his bills were supported by a member of the Michigan Association of Beauty Professionals.  


- Rep. Will Snyder (D-Muskegon)’s HB 5546, which establishes a tax credit equal to a half-cent per returnable container to Michigan beer and soft drink distributors, received testimony.  


The bill was supported by the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers and the Michigan Soft Drink Association, and opposed by the Department of Treasury.  


- Rep. Alabas A. Farhat (D-Dearborn)’s HB 5460, which amends the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act to specify that it doesn’t prohibit installment sales contracts that require payments in unequal amounts, was voted out of committee with a substitute.  


Farhat said the substitute would require buyers to review the payment schedule and qualify for the maximum possible payment first, would mandate that no payment could increase more than 40 percent from the first payment and would prohibit some fees.