Recent trends indicate camp directors are buying less camper accident and sickness medical insurance and relying more on a parent’s insurance to pay for the occasional camper injury or illness. As a result, camper families are paying more expenses out of their own pockets if they have the means, and more families are seeking reimbursement from the camp when they feel the camp contributed to the injury. Some families are hiring lawyers to help them obtain reimbursement.

In the process, camp directors are finding that camper families are not as adequately insured as they assumed. The economy and challenge in obtaining health care in our country is contributing to more underinsured or incompletely insured families than ever before. There are also millions of uninsured persons — some of which send their children to camp.

These days, staff members are often more likely to be uninsured or incompletely insured than campers. U.S. staff members at resident camps have also historically been insured for accidental non-work-related injuries and illness by camper accident medical insurance policies. Injuries or illnesses that arise out of or in the actual course of staff employment are of course covered by the workers compensation system in each state.

The future of health care in our country is even more uncertain pending the outcome of the arguments currently before the U.S. Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In the face of this uncertainty, some camps are going “bare” and have no strategy for dealing with unpaid camper or staff medical expenses. Others have “slush funds” (money put aside to pay for uninsured medical expenses) and others have purchased camper accident policies, which will pay on a secondary basis — after the parents’ health insurance coverage has been exhausted.

What is your strategy for paying medical expenses incurred by campers and staff while at camp? Make a note to review and update your strategy for managing and responding to claims for camper and staff medical expenses. Don’t have a strategy? Create one before the summer! Not having a strategy would seem to be inviting a lawsuit.

In spite of the entire uncertainty, one thing is clear: the risk will not be going away, and there is a strong likelihood this risk will be changing again in the near future, especially if the health reform legislation is upheld.

The benefits of an effective strategy for managing camper and staff medical risks include:

  • Increased camper family goodwill.
  • Reassurance of local medical providers that they will be appropriately paid for their services — helping to forge a stronger relationship with your camp.
  • Reducing the risk of litigation from camper families to recover medical expenses they paid out of their pocket.

Edward A. Schirick, CPCU, CIC, CRM, is senior vice president at Schirick & Associates Insurance Brokers, a division of Bollinger Inc. in Short Hills, New Jersey, where he specializes in arranging insurance coverage and offering risk management advice for camps. Schirick is a chartered property casualty underwriter, a certified insurance counselor, and a certified risk manager. He can be reached at 877.794.3113. Visit