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Corpse-delivery pay could increase

March 07, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - A bill that could bring back Washington County's longtime corpse-collection company was heard Tuesday.

Outspokenly upset that the state didn't raise its reimbursement rate for 10 years despite rising costs, Thomas E. Wetzel Sr. halted his body-delivery service on July 31, 2006.

Wetzel's company, Kerfoot Livery Service, picked up bodies after homicides, suicides, accidents or unusual circumstances and took them to Baltimore for autopsies.

The state found a replacement service for Washington County, but there were complaints early on that response times had grown longer and bodies went uncollected for hours.

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Other companies serve other Maryland counties.

The state raised its rate from $1.75 per loaded mile - one way to Baltimore - to $2 per loaded mile in July 2006, but Wetzel said that wasn't enough.

On Tuesday, Wetzel testified in favor of a bill to raise the state rate further.

A bill sponsored by Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, proposed the new rate at $2.75 per loaded mile.

However, Myers told the House Health and Government Operations Committee that he wanted to amend the rate, making it five times the federal mileage reimbursement rate, to prevent having to change the law every so often.

The 2007 IRS mileage reimbursement rate is 48.5 cents per mile, meaning Maryland body-transport businesses would get $2.43 per loaded mile.

Wetzel said after the hearing that he'd return to business at the new rate.

"Philosophically, I fully agree with it," Dr. David Fowler, Maryland's chief medical examiner, told the committee.

Fowler testified that his office tried to increase the rate to $2.50 per loaded mile, but the increase was cut from his budget. A state Department of Legislative Services analysis says the chief medical examiner's office paid body-transport fees for 2,984 autopsies in 2006.

On the Web at mlis.state.md.us/2007rs/billfile/hb0891.htm.

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