Advocacy

 

December 2, 2019

Good afternoon members,
I hope each and every one of you had a happy and safe Thanksgiving. As we all turn the calendar to December, I wanted to take a moment to remind you of the last phase of the EDRS. The first three phases have not come and gone without bumps and bruises (most of which were egos), but we seem to have weathered most of the storm.

As this last phase begins, I have sort of called it “the rest of them” phase. At this point, most major groups and specialties have been addressed. Those that have not, fall under this fourth and last phase. We have seen areas where doctors are participating that swore they would never do this. Plans changed. I signed up a doctor a few weeks ago that was one of them… after working through their issues and concerns he said to me that it wasn’t as overwhelming as he thought it would be. So, it can be done.

As I have each and every time, I have spoken about EDRS, I beg of you to please help these doctors get signed up. You are helping yourself also. I am going to modify my doctor’s office letter to remind doctors that after January 1, 2020 paper death certificates WILL NOT be accepted by your health department, unless it is for a doctor who practices in another state. Your drop to paper function will still be available, but doctors MUST sign death certificates electronically. Please continue to take this letter to your doctors with each and every drop to paper certificate!

Additionally, I want to address an issue that continues to arise. If you are having issues with doctors who have not signed up during their correct phase, because they think the law has allowed them until January 1 to do so are incorrect. And if they ask you or tell you such is the case; you must remind them that they are incorrect. My doctor’s office letter clearly states when their participation is mandatory. Many who have read the law see the part where it states “That the provisions of the first enactment of this act shall become effective on January 1, 2020.” That means that it is not entirely in force until all phases have been given the appropriate time to sign up and participate. The last phase of course began on Sunday December 1, 2019 and ends on Tuesday December 31, 2019. If you continue to meet resistance, file a complaint. This association, and the profession as a whole have been more than patient with doctors. Now is the time that they must do what is required. I have strongly suggested to anyone and everyone who will listen, that you let the VFDA, myself, or the families you serve who cannot get their DCs in an appropriate time, file a complaint against the doctor.
Again, I hope this process meets a quick and easy end in just 30 days from now. We have made it this far, and now it’s time for doctors to make it happen. I am always willing to help. We have made great strides and finally the end is near!

Thanks,
Jay McIntyre

doctor_office_letter_december2

November 14, 2019
Legislative Updates and New Member Bios

The 2019 General Election brought twenty-two new members to the House of Delegates (17) and Senate of Virginia (5). One contest, the 83rd District, is currently in a recount and is not included in this new member biography. The Democratic challenger, Nancy Guy, currently leads Republican Delegate Chris Stolle by eighteen votes.

The PDF below is 11 pages. Use the arrows to page through or use the download button to download your own copy.

2019.11.19_vfda_legislative_update

Good Morning VFDA Members:

It’s hard to believe we have made it all the way to October 1. Sadly, for all of us who like the days of warm weather, we are on the end of those…with much cold and miserable weather coming our way! I wanted to reach out today to remind you of a couple things happening.

As of yesterday, Phase 1 of the mandatory EDRS rollout ended. I hope that you have found greater success this year and through Phase 1 (including Hospitalists, Emergency Department Physicians, and Medical Directors of Nursing Homes) with getting doctors to sign up. Again, you have as a tool in your chest the ability to file a complaint of unprofessional conduct for doctors in the three areas listed above who haven’t yet, or won’t sign up. They do not have until January 31 as some may have told you. As long as they are willing to get signed up, I would not use that hammer…not yet anyway. But I would not hesitate for the doctors who are unwilling to do so. We have seen more and more practices getting signed up albeit reluctantly in some cases, they are now doing so. Communication between funeral homes and doctor’s offices is the key. It is also becoming more and more apparent that it is not the doctors who are unwilling to get signed up when you explain the program to them…it is the staff members or office managers who speak on behalf of the doctors. As I’ve mentioned through the spring months and to the districts I’ve spoken with early this fall…please use the letter the VFDA provided you when issues arise. It provides an explanation of the phased roll out, and what the consequences are if the medical certifier chooses not to participate.

Starting today with Phase 2, all family practitioners and doctors of internal medicine must enroll, and must do so by October 31. Again, communication is paramount. We don’t have three months like we did in phase 1, so making sure doctors and their office staff understand the urgency in which they must sign up becomes ever more important. If and when you take a paper certificate to an office, ask to speak with the office manager about the change and present them with the VFDA letter and explanation of the change. Make sure he/she knows what is happening. It’s likely that you will be told that they didn’t know. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant. Now you have informed them of the change, and what must occur with that change. Some practices will be forced to add their facility to the listing…which does not happen immediately. Most cases it is the end of the same day, or the next day. That being said, once the facility is listed in the EDRS, the signup process is fairly easy. The medical certifier must be available when the verification email is sent to complete the signup process. Other than that, the office staff, hopefully with your guidance, can complete the sign up process.

I will follow up with another email at the beginning of Phase 3 with what happens next. Again, communicate with the office staff of those medical certifiers who are part of Phase 1 and are not yet signed up to aid them in doing so. Please also do the same thing with the folks in Phase 2.
The end is near…I cannot say with absolute certainty if that is the light at the end of the tunnel, or a train headed down the tracks. Either way, sooner than later we will know. Please reach out to me if you need assistance with a practice!

Thanks,
Jay McIntyre
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Good Day Members. July 1st is right around the corner and I wanted to reach out to remind you of the changes coming. The VFDA had a great year on the hill, and we want to continue our strong presence this year. We are so blessed to have such a fantastic lobbying team who works tirelessly on our behalf. We are now recognized as the primary voice of the funeral industry because of their hard work.

The first change I want to remind you of is the change in who can sell caskets. After their meeting in July 2018, the State Board made the ruling that in their opinion a license was no longer needed to sell caskets in an at-need situation. After some back and forth discussion, the law needed further clarity. So after another funeral association drafted a bill, Larry Spiaggi and our lobbyist worked together with Senator Bryce Reeves and Delegate Bobby Orrock to correct some incorrect language. Additionally, as further protection for the consumer, the wording was clarified to ensure that caskets sold pre-need, MUST be sold by a funeral service licensee. Without the work of the VFDA, this bill would have been struck down for being in complete violation of the FTC Funeral Rule.

Second change coming this July is the change in the number of families served by one manager of record, covering multiple rooftop locations. That cap was previously 85 families served. As the industry is changing, a member firm asked to raise that cap. Initially he asked for the number to cap at 150 families served. After further discussion, the number of 135 was settled on. The association feels that this change could greatly benefit rural funeral homes who are looking to expand their business by adding another location, or by acquiring another firm.

The third change is the big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for and working towards. The mandatory usage of EDRS by all Medical Certifiers in Virginia. Again, I ask of each and every funeral home to please distribute the letter and information sheet to the doctors who have not yet signed up. I also ask that if you encounter issues with individual doctors or full medical practices, please inform the VFDA. We will act on your behalf to get the doctors going. If you have the time and ability to do so, please help your doctors go through signing their first death certificate. I will attach the Physician User Manual as provided by the Department of Health for you to share with the doctors. Beginning on Page 6 of the user manual, it walks the doctor through the entire process. From accepting the DC, to entering their PIN and returning ownership back to the funeral home. As always, I am willing to help when and where I can with this process. Please, even though some of you may not think it is our duty to do this leg work, please help these doctors.

Lastly, I want to remind you, as this upcoming General Assembly session approaches, please bring any issues you are having and feel need to be resolved by legislation to our attention. This committee along with our lobbyists can help work through getting the process started. Let us act on your behalf to help.

Physician User Manual

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair

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vfda_april_legislative_update

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VFDA Legislative Update
March 15, 2019

Good Morning Members. As you may have already seen, Governor Northam signed the EDRS Legislation into law on March 5. This is the news we have been anxiously awaiting. The long and multi-year process to make this happen has finally met some resolution. With that being said I wanted to remind you as to how the phased in approach will work. This association worked hand in hand with several medical associations as well as the Division of Vital Records to craft a plan going forward. Beginning on July 1st when the law takes effect and culminating on December 31, each of the four phases has a deadline for the particular medical specialty to begin full usage. This is intended to segment the signup process for the large quantity of doctors who will now be tasked with using the EDRS. The rollout is as follows:

1. Beginning on July 1, and concluding on September 30, all hospitalists, emergency department physicians, and medical directors of nursing homes must begin usage.
2. Beginning on October 1, and concluding on October 31, all family practitioners as well as doctors of internal medicine must enroll and participate.
3. Beginning on November 1, and concluding on November 30, all doctors of oncology and general surgery must enroll and participate.
4. Beginning on December 1, and concluding on December 31, all remaining doctors not yet enrolled in the EDRS must do so.

Under these new regulations, physicians that fail to participate in the EDRS or do not sign the death certificate in a timely manner, may have an infraction of unprofessional conduct filed against their medical license by your funeral home or the family you are serving. While the law currently reads for the death certificate to be signed within 24 hours of death, and filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia within 72 hours of death and prior to any disposition, we all know sometimes that is not possible. That being said, it should be expected of funeral homes to promptly provide the medical certifier a death certificate for signature and he or she as promptly as possible sign the certificate and return ownership back to the funeral home. I would suggest that all funeral homes ease into this process, but also appropriately prepare doctors and their office staff for what could happen should they choose not to follow the change in the law.

You will find below, a PDF which shows the change in the law. It is paramount that you keep this close at hand, and do not hesitate to provide a printout of the change for reference if a doctor were to question the change. I will also attach a letter that the VFDA recommends you attach to every drop to paper death certificate from now until July 1. We are going to do everything we can to avoid another messaging disaster like we experienced with the hospice rollout. I know some of you may buck at the idea of funeral directors having to do additional work to inform the doctors of the change, but it is our hope along with a cooperative letter from the EDRS Stakeholders committee that the change will be better communicated.

Doctor Office Letter
Doctor Office Information Sheet

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
McMullen Funeral Home
540.833.2891-Work
540.421.6585-Cell


March 4, 2019

I just wanted to send an update on the further progress of the VFDA Legislation. As of Tuesday, two of our pieces of legislation have been signed by the Governor. Each piece of legislation that is passed by the House and/or Senate has a deadline for signature. The deadline for both pieces of legislation was midnight on the 21st.

SB1247/HB1828, which addresses the sale of caskets, has been signed by Governor Northam and will take effect on July 1. This change is aligned with the new opinion of the State Board following their July meeting. The change allows for any person to sell caskets at need with or without being licensed. This change was coming sooner than later, and Virginia was one of two remaining states that required a license for the sale of caskets. Additionally, with this change, comes an important protection for both the consumer and the funeral home. The preneed sale of caskets must be by a Funeral Service Licensee. This ensures that the money is properly and securely trusted so that the funds are not used inappropriately and the merchandise can be delivered at time of need. In focusing more on the text of this legislation, the VFDA did not support the initial wording, as it was in total violation of the FTC Funeral Rule. This legislation was patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves at the request of the Association of Independent Funeral Homes of Virginia. Upon reading the text, the legislative committee recognized this issue and made clear we would not support the bill as first written. At that point, VFDA President Larry Spiaggi and Lobbyist Angie Bezik met with the lobbyist for the IFHV, where the VFDA reworded the text to ensure it was compliant with the funeral rule. Were it not for our work and diligence, this legislation would not have passed.

SB1300, which raises the cap from 85 families served to 135, by one manager of record serving multiple rooftops. This change will take effect on July 1. Governor Northam signed this into law on February 21. Again, this was requested by a member firm, who was interested in purchasing a new funeral home. The VFDA looked at the changes in our industry and felt there was in fact a need to raise this cap. This association is listening to the members and their needs and this is an area that can and will help many rural funeral homes.

SB1439/HB2445 addresses the mandatory usage of EDRS by all Physicians in the Commonwealth. Both have passed their floor vote, SB 1439 passed the Senate 39-0 and the House 99-0 and HB 2445 passed the House 98-0 and the Senate 40-0. The governor has a March 26 deadline to sign the legislation. At this point there has been no opposition to the legislation. All indications are positive, but until the pen hits the paper, nothing is set in stone. Again, once the governor does sign, I cannot stress the importance of informing your doctors that have not yet signed up. The VFDA will provide a letter with all necessary information to be given to the doctors when delivering a drop to paper DC.

Lastly, I want to clear the air about the Next of Kin Legislation. This bill was not killed by any other funeral association. It was pulled by this association (VFDA) after a conference call with the Virginia Bar Association. They requested we wait until next year, so that the two associations can work together to further strengthen this bill. As those of you who are members of the IFHV may have read in their latest legislative update, they take credit for killing the bill, which is not the case. We will continue to work on this legislation going forward with the help of NFDA General Counsel, Scott Gilligan.

I hope this update finds you well and I will send my next update after Governor Northam signs our final piece on or around March 26.

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home
540.833.2891-Work
540.421.6585-Cell

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Legislative_Update_020619

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Virginia General Assembly: Who’s My Legislator?
https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/
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Good morning members.

I wanted to let everyone know of a change in our legislative agenda for 2019. Earlier this week, Larry Spiaggi, Angie Bezik, Julia Hammond, and I had a conference call with the Virginia Bar Association regarding the Next of Kin Law. The bar association does not fully oppose our law, as they tried without success to create a similar law more than 10 years ago. However, they want to force a stakeholders committee with several key groups to make this law work. They found areas where it could conflict with certain areas of established code as it is currently written and because of that we are choosing to pull the legislation for 2019. We plan to work together on this between now and summer time and plan to present again with the 2020 General Assembly. Our goal of creating a next of kin law with a solid backbone has been delayed, but is not over. We will continue to work hard on this law to polish some wording and content and we will be back next year!

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home
5784 Greenmount Road
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
540.833.2891-Work
540.421.6585-Cell
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Good Thursday afternoon. When I took over as legislative committee chair, I promised I would keep the association informed on current legislative issues both throughout the year and especially during the General Assembly Session. Through the hard work and dedication of quite a few, our legislative agenda is off to a great start. While there is still some opposition we will likely encounter, we are pleased with how the first full week of session has gone. I want to give a brief breakdown of what we know so far and what we expect going forward.

SB1300 – Senator John Edwards – Member Robert Givens approached the association about changing the cap on the number of families served by one manager of record serving multiple rooftops. This very simple change from 85 families to 135 families was carried by Senator John Edwards. On Monday when the bill was read before the committee, there was no opposition, and due to his stellar presentation, there was no need for anyone to speak in favor of the bill. SB1300 passed through committee with a unanimous 14-0 vote, and is ready to be discussed on the floor of the Senate.

SB1439/HB2445 – Senator Jennifer McClellan and Senator John Cosgrove and Delegate Tony Wilt – These companion bills address the mandatory usage of the EDRS by Virginia Medical Certifiers and lays out a pathway to full usage with a segmented roll out. As I have mentioned along the way, there were many meetings, phone calls and emails, all of which have gotten us to this point. Based on what has been agreed to in terms of phasing in the doctors by specialty, the bill will require full usage by December 31, 2019. SB1439 passed full committee and is now ready for discussion on the floor of the Senate. We have not yet heard when this will be discussed in the appropriate House committee.

SB1478/HB2116 – Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Mark Sickles – This is the next of kin bill. We have worked diligently and opened our minds and ears to several adjustments and improvements to wording. This bill does face opposition from those who have not yet seen the full text, but only heard about it. Because of the opposition we face, we understand that this is not a sure thing, but we also feel as if once read by the membership of all the associations, our case is much stronger. Those who actually read the text, like what it does to protect both your funeral home and the consumer. SB1478 was re-assigned to a more appropriate committee and will be read one day next week. We welcome anyone who wants to see the full text of this legislation to reach out to either me or Lacy and we will send it to you.

SB1247/HB1828 – Senator Bryce Reeves and Delegate Bobby Orrock – This bill addresses the sale of caskets in Virginia by a third party. After some discussion between the VFDA and the IFHV, both sides came to an agreement to re-write the original text to better comply with the FTC Funeral Rule. The wording clearly spells out that funeral homes must accept third party caskets, and that no longer do you have to maintain a Funeral Service License to sell funeral merchandise. This same issue was addressed last year after a funeral home refused a third party casket, which led to the clarification by the state board this past summer. I want the funeral homes to understand, the law was going to be challenged in Virginia and would have eventually been overturned. So please do not direct any frustrations towards the members of the State Board. This law also clearly defines that preneed caskets can only be sold by funeral homes. That wording is as follows: A. Only a licensed funeral establishment or funeral service licensee shall offer for sale or sell a casket when preneed arrangements for funeral services, including preneed funeral contracts and preneed funeral planning are being made.

Finally, I just want you let you know what work is being done behind the scenes for you as members. Angie Bezik, Julia Hammond, and Ryan O’Toole, who are your lobbyists, find a way to fit extra hours in the day and work long hours on your behalf. Along with your lobbyists, the members of this committee, Larry Spiaggi and Lacy, have all read legislation, attended meetings, exchanged countless emails and spoken on the phone more times than you could imagine to see that our legislative agenda is fully achieved. We take great pride in being recognized on the hill as being a voice of the funeral industry in Virginia and plan to keep it that way.

While I know this update is longer than most I send, it is packed full on information. We are off to a great start with our legislation in 2019 and look forward to a fully achieved agenda. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call me.
Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home
5784 Greenmount Road
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
540.833.2891-Work
540.421.6585-Cell

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VFDA 2019 Legislative Agenda

  • Electronic Death Registration System – EDRS (§ 32.1-263. Filing death certificates; medical certification; investigation by Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.)
  • Next-of-Kin Updates (§ 32.1-309.1. Identification of decedent, next of kin; disposition of claimed dead body.)
  • Increase the number of services for multiple funeral facilities from 85 to 135 (§ 54.1-2810. Licensure of funeral establishments)

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