Funeral Directors are Packing Up their Typewriters in NYS

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NYS Funeral Directors Association Applauds Governor's OK Setting Up an Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS)

Francis (Joe) Martin, Jr., NYSFDA President says, "This law is excellent for families. Funeral directors' time will now be more appropriately used to serve those who have lost a loved one rather than spending time typing and filling death certificate

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has signed into law a measure that will bring a fully modern, electronic death registration system (EDRS) to the entire state of New York. Such a system is already in place in New York City, while 43 other states either employ such a system or are actively developing one. The Empire State will soon join their ranks as a result of the Governor's action.

The Assembly passed the bill unanimously, and the Senate voted overwhelmingly (56-7) in favor in June. The bills were sponsored on our behalf by Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange Counties) and NYS Assemblyman Phil Steck (D-Albany/Schenectady Counties). NYS Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) co-sponsored the legislation and was pivotal to its passage.

A top priority of NYSFDA for over a decade, the development and implementation of a system allowing electronic filing of death certificates will positively transform and streamline the way licensed funeral directors perform one of the central tasks the law requires: ensuring that each death certificate is completed and filed with the appropriate local registrar within the legally-required 72 hours following a person's death. The system is to be designed by the NYS Department of Health (DOH) in concert with all stakeholders and is slated to be fully functional by January 1, 2015.

Currently, death certificates are comprised of paper with carbon copy, requiring the use of a typewriter and manual filing. This includes the personal delivery of these official state records by funeral directors for signature, as well as extensive and costly travel by funeral directors to file the certificates. The labor-intensive nature of this process takes valuable time away from funeral directors - time that will now be more appropriately used to serve the needs of those who have just lost a family member or other loved one. This process is also expected to save the State's small business funeral homes costs associated with this manual process.

Notably, this new law will also:

  •     authorize the NYS DOH to design, implement and maintain a fully modern, electronic system (EDRS) for all counties outside the City of New York (which already operates its own EDRS);
  •     allow for more accurate tracking and reporting of causes of death, especially in the event of a widespread disease outbreak or pandemic flu event, yielding a multitude of benefits from a public health and safety perspective;    
  •     be funded through a 'public-private partnership' between the State of New York and NYSFDA;

o    funeral directors will make a payment of $20 for each burial/removal permit issued;

o    this amount will not be charged to families, but will be a cost of business operations;

  •     facilitate the collaboration among multiple death registration users - including funeral homes, hospitals and nursing homes, physicians, coroners and NYS DOH Vital Records;
  •     save funeral homes thousands of dollars each year in travel time, personnel costs, gasoline expenses, and lost productivity (an average statewide savings of $9317 in 2013 for each funeral home);
  •     eliminate the need to physically locate and wait for physicians to obtain signatures certifying to each death, thereby saving funeral directors and physicians much time and distraction from their prime duties attending to grieving families and patients, respectively;
  •     reduce errors by electronically verifying the decedent's Social Security number through a matching process with Social Security Administration records;
  •     promote uniformity in reporting death statistics to the State and Federal governments; and
  •     enable faster death registration at NYS Vital Records, increasing turnaround time for families to obtain certified copies.

Francis (Joe) Martin, Jr., NYSFDA President says, "NYSFDA will be working closely with the State Department of Health (DOH) in implementing this major new program, especially through our Select Committee on Formulation and Implementation of NYS EDRS, which is chaired by Martin Kasdan. This law is excellent for families. Funeral directors' time will now be more appropriately used to serve those who have lost a loved one rather than spending time typing and filling death certificates."

William E. (Bill) McVeigh, Chairman of NYSFDA's Government Affairs Committee, said, "This has been a long time coming and is a major victory for funeral service in New York State. EDRS will positively transform the death certificate filing process, saving all funeral homes money, time and unnecessary headaches. I am extremely pleased as your Committee Chairman to have achieved this great success."    

Randy L. McCullough, the trade association's deputy executive director says, "This law erases an antiquated, and unnecessary, burden for our many main street funeral homes located in rural, suburban, and urban communities across New York State. The time for using typewriters and carbon paper has long past. We are gratified that Governor Cuomo, through his leadership, not only recognizes that, but has shown a commitment to implementing this system for some years."

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Founded in 1889, NYSFDA's mission is to promote the highest standards of funeral service to the public and to enhance the environment in which its members operate. More than 900 member firms and 3300 licensed funeral directors who operate across the state belong to the New York State Funeral Directors Association. In addition to maintaining a website at http://www.nysfda.org, NYSFDA also publishes brochures and information which educate and inform consumers about end-of-life issues.

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Rana Huber
@NYSFDA
since: 04/2009
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