Friday, August 06, 2010

The High cost of Plantation

An article in the Toronto Star yesterday caught my attention, it was titled "Funeral Homes Subsidizing Services for the Poor". Being the altruist that I am and having gone through the funeral process fairly recently, this act of corporate largesse just grabbed me. But I'm working on the principle that nothing makes a funeral home sadder than to sit empty, and any funeral is better for business than no funeral.

It seems that local funeral homes in Toronto are 'up against the wall', cost-wise, in providing a ]decent] funeral for the 'poor', for less than $5 500. They want the City to up the basic rate for a 'paupers' funeral from $2 208 to cover that amount. Last year they claim to have 'lost' millions on the 1 600  'freebies' they 'had to' give those who died while on social assistance, or disability pensions.

Needless to say, most of those funerals were of the 'full service' type because there were 'family' involved. I'm making an assumption here, but I'd guess none of the 'family involved' were in a position to actually pay anything toward the costs themselves?

So what's included? Because the family must be  'respected'  here. "Most get pickup, embalming, a particleboard casket covered by grey cloth with white rayon interior, a service, clergy honorarium, a hearse, “lead car” and limo for family, and burial or cremation." If the cost for that is $5 500 + tax, then the $13 000 paid for a recently deceased relative must have been increased by more than double - the extra costs of 'viewing', 'deluxe' coffin and a grave liner.

Under legislation,  municipalities are "allowed"  to cover these costs with 80% being supplied by the province. This for families who are "unable to bury a loved one as they would like".

Strikes me that one of the effects of  'poverty' is not being able to do a lot of things you would like. But having a funeral 'show' for an indigent family member, on the public tick, I don't think should be one of them. I guess the same problem of not having the foresight to realize that you can't not work and expect the grocery man to drop a load at the door, carries over into the realization that we are all finite and the day will come when our carcass, or dear old dad's,  must be disposed.  That a whole 'family' (for I'm making an assumption that this wouldn't get done for the sake of a surviving parent, brother, sister or cousin) couldn't work together to bury their dead, is a sad commentary on to-day's world. But then, if they did that, they'd probably get charged the going rate. The costs of those 'basic' funeral services, which aren't available to the paying public, would be heftily inflated. If somebody else is going to pay for it, why volunteer? And I don't think the funeral industry is being too altruistic either.

One thing most funeral directors in business aren't, is stupid. That variety don't stay in business long. So I'm imagining that, like many businessmen who 'give to charity', funeral homes put some of those 'operating expenses' over to those who can pay, or as a 'business expense' against taxes, or maybe a bit of both. I would also imagine that, depending on location, some funeral homes would get more of the 'pauper' trade than others. And the subsidy, then, would constitute a business hardship, in terms of a lack of higher 'regular' rates than those funeral homes get, who only bury the well-heeled. So the problem wouldn't be industry-wide, or equitably distributed.

Why, then, the necessity for government involvement? The funeral business has a number of internal organizations to which individuals can belong, and for a number of purposes. Why don't they fund an insurance plan to cover those increased basic costs for the few (?) affected? Just because the government undertakes to provide the necessities of life to those unable to do so for themselves doesn't make it a logical follow-up that government should provide the industry standard in funerary practices too. 'Bury the dead' is a corporal work of mercy enjoined on all, but in our neo-pagan society this religious tenet has been parlayed into a social event, with concommitent opportunities for the ultimate 'show', which, in the industry, is the icing on the monetary cake. Poverty defines a limit on the amount of that

The government shouldn't be in the business of providing more than the 'paupers' funeral'. If  'the family'  want more, they should plan for it, and save for it or, as so many others do, go into debt for it.

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