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Kentucky Undertakers Try to Shut Down Competition

Note: the story below gives an overview. Readers who want details on the laws discussed should see Funeral Consumers Alliance’s opposition letter sent to Kentucky legislators, and our analysis of the bill .

Frankfort, Kentucky, January, 2006 — Faced with stiff competition from innovative, lower-cost funeral services that offer low prices by economizing on overhead, entrenched “traditional” Kentucky funeral homes are trying to abuse the law to protect their pocketbooks. House Bill 232, which looks to have been written by the state funeral directors’ Board (made up of four funeral directors and one “public” representative, whose wife works part-time at a funeral home!) and the the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky, would:

  • Take away Kentucky citizens’ rights to care for their own dead by giving the state funeral board control over every aspect of funerals, even private family or religious services
  • Take away the right of religious congregations to care for their members in a traditional way without the interference of the commercial funeral industry
  • Outlaw innovative, lower-cost funeral establishments that keep prices moderate by economizing on overhead
  • Give established, high-overhead funeral homes a virtual monopoly on the funeral business
  • Insulate funeral homes from competition, thereby keeping prices high and consumers captive

The bill’s funeral director supporters will probably claim the goal is “consumer protection,” but it’s clear the sole purpose is protectionism. Funeral directors trade groups have tried similar tactics recently in Wisconsin and Tennessee . Kentucky has 495 funeral homes, when the death rate can really only support about 150 . With the rising cremation rate, and with more families shunning $7,000 send-offs at lavish funeral parlors, many “traditional” funeral homes are sweating the bills. But it’s not right, and it’s not fair, to use the law as a cudgel against competition. Shutting down the market raises prices for families and denies them affordable choices.

If you care about preserving your right to choose a meaningful, dignified, and affordable funeral, and if you care about preserving your constitutional right to care for your own dead without interference from the commercial funeral industry, contact your Kentucky representatives and tell them how you feel! You can also support funeral consumer rights by joining up with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Louisville .

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