Survey of State Regulators--Regulation of Funeral Homes, Cemeteries, Crematories, Pre-Need Sales of Funeral Plans, and Third-Party Sellers of Funeral Goods, an E-supplement to GAO-03-757

GAO-03-831SP: Published: Aug 25, 2003. Publicly Released: Aug 25, 2003.

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Laurie E. Ekstrand
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This is a companion report to GAO-03-757. Media reports of desecration of graves and human remains and other types of mismanagement at cemeteries and crematories have inspired a debate regarding whether the federal government should take on a greater role in regulating the death care industry, primarily funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries, pre-need sales of funeral plans, and third party sales of funeral goods. The federal government has a limited role in regulating the death care industry, as most regulatory responsibilities are handled at the state level. Because of this, federal policymakers have expressed an interest in understanding the range of practices that are used by the states to regulate the various segments of the death care industry. Based on surveys of state regulators covering the various segments of the death care industry; and visits to the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, New York, and Texas; the report, entitled "Death Care Industry: Regulation Varies Across States and by Industry Segments" (GAO-03-757), provides information on (1) the structures used by states for regulating the death care industry, and (2) the mechanisms used by states for enforcing their regulations covering the industry. The report also provides information on the resources available to help consumers make informed choices regarding death care transactions. This document presents the results of GAO's survey of state regulators of the death care industry. To obtain the information on licensing, enforcement, and consumer protection for each of the five death care industry components within our scope--funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries, sellers of pre-need funeral plans, and sellers of third-party funeral goods--we developed five Web-based surveys. We sent these surveys to the state official(s) responsible for licensing and enforcement of state regulations of the five death care industry components covered in our review. At times, this meant sending surveys to a number of different officials or sending all five surveys to one official. Information about accessing the survey was provided via e-mail for those officials identified as being the appropriate contact for participating in the survey. The survey was activated on December 2, 2002 and it was available until March 7, 2003. To ensure security and data integrity, we provided each official with a username and password that allowed him or her to access and complete a questionnaire. We received responses from 48 states regarding funeral homes, 46 states regarding crematories, 45 states regarding cemeteries, 44 states regarding sellers of pre-need funeral plan sales, and 45 states regarding third party sales of funeral or cemetery goods. The survey results were then stratified by state and we show the results for the individual states that responded to the survey. Although respondents were asked to provide written comments to open-ended questions, these responses are not provided. A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology and a discussion of the summary of the survey results are contained in our report. We conducted our survey work from December 2, 2002 through March 7, 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

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