The Memorial Society, Inc., 66 Marlboro Street, Boston, Mass. 617-859-7990

Indigent Burial in Massachusetts

The purpose of this web page is to make available background material which I have gathered over the past several years.
Byron Blanchard, former Treasurer of The Memorial Society, Inc., d/b/a Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts, now just a volunteer interested in regulatory issues.
The assistance of Department of Transitional Assistance,  Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association, and  Peter Stefan is gratefully acknowledged.

Background articles in our annual newsletter 1999, 2001

1998 price survey of  48 funeral homes:  PDF

What are the authorizing statutes?

There are several other statutes providing a similar stipend.  I haven't found them all, but  one is:
Chapter 6, Section 130. Commissioner's duties and powers; supervisors; divisions and directors; assistance to blind persons; funeral expenses    
This is puzzling, since I believe DTA handles all indigent burial funds, except for veterans.

Indigent veterans are covered under a completely different statute, with a different, larger stipend paid by a different agency:
Chapter 115, Section 8. Payment and reimbursement of burial expenses; certificate.
Note that it distinguishes between service and merchandise provided by a funeral home, and those provided by a cemetery -- a very important distinction.
The increase in stipend was by an outside section in the 1998 appropriation bill

Who are the major providers of  service? A 1999 answer from DTA.

What are the DTA procedures for claiming the stipend?  DTA Memos

What does the DTA application form look like? DTA Application

What does the DTA invoice form look like? DTA Invoice Form

What services and merchandise are actually provided? 25 typical invoices from 1999

Do funeral homes have to handle indigent burials? MFDA Requests for Advisory Ruling  They received no answer to either request!
Ron Harrell explains the problem in a plea to the Board of Registration: PDF

How do other states handle this? MFDA survey 1999

Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association comment on  2005 House Bill 2827 PDF, DOC

2005-2006 Legislative Actions -- Seven Bills were filed of which five went to Children and Families Committee and two went to Public Health Committee. Each Committee reported out favorably one bill, the former H2827 and the latter H2642. Those two bills then went to House Ways and Means Committee where they died. The other bills considered in Children and Families Committee were S74, S89, S142, and H2837. The other bill considered in Public Health Committee was H2643.

2005 Bill H2827 would have made a great improvement in the situation by eliminating the ridiculous list of goods and services that are to be provided for the $1,100 stipend, which was unchanged. It is a shame it wasn't passed.

2003-2004 Legislative Actions -- Four Bills were filed H351, H706, S754, and S826. None were enacted. Unfortunately I didn't archive the Bill History files, so we don't have the details.

Every earlier session since at least 1995 had at least one bill filed to raise the stipend but as we recall they all left the list of goods and services unchanged.