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Division Legal Advisor - Bill Cline

Patrol Finances & Expenditures
A Common Sense Guideline
for Operating Under
Section 501(c)(3) of the US Tax Code
March 5, 2007


This PDF document has been posted to guide all patrollers at all levels in complying with the requirements of the National Ski Patrol's not-for-profit status. Click on the title above to access the document.



Who’s afraid of a HIPAA?  We are ski patrollers; we are faster than a down hill ski racer; we are more powerful than a snow cat; we are able to jump over high mountains in a single bound; then why should we be scared of a HIPAA?  HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  It is an Act of Congress whose purpose is to protect the privacy of an individual’s medical information.  The question now presented to patrollers is Adoes this law apply to our patrolling activities?  The answer is - do not panic; I mean, really, do not panic!  First, it is very important to understand that the decision of whether a HIPAA applies to your patrolling activities is a decision which must be made by your ski area.  It is not an NSP decision.  Second, HIPAA probably does not apply to patrolling activities. The primary reason for this conclusion, and good news, is the fact that patrols do not receive compensation for the medical services it renders to injured skiers on the slopes, combined with the fact that patrols generally do not electronically bill for medical services. 


Recently, Bruce Reis, our National legal counsel, and our beloved national chairman (come on, you remember - his name is Bill Sachs), wrote an article on HIPAA which was recently printed in Ski Patrol Magazine (see link to the article below).  The article should be read carefully.  The article represents the official position of NSP. In addition to the article, the lawyers in the Eastern Division Legal Committee have performed their own investigation of HIPAA and, with the help of John Houston, an attorney whose legal practice involves interpreting and applying HIPAA, have come up with the following additional information:   

My resort operates a medical clinic that must comply with HIPAA, does this mean that my patrol must also comply with HIPAA?  No.  But, your patrol should be careful that it distinguishes its operations from those of the clinic.  This includes making sure that the clinic is physically separate from the patrol operations (though they can be within a common building), so that the public is able to differentiate between patrol operations and clinic operations.  Additionally, the patrol should request that the clinic states within its “Notice of Privacy Practices” (a document that the clinic would provide to each of its patients) that the clinical is separate from and not affiliated with the  patrol.

My patrol is not associated with a resort, what should I do? While the recent Ski Patrol Magazine article focused on issues related to “resort associated” patrols, some patrols have no resort association.  In this case, the patrol itself may need to assess whether HIPAA applies to it.  To do so, you should first ask “does the patrol electronically bill insurance companies for medical services that it renders to injured skiers?”  If you answered “no”, then HIPAA simply does not apply.  However, if your patrol provides services to any area, such as a state park, remember that it should find out how the area it patrols has decided to handle HIPAA in that HIPAA decisions remain an area decision and concern, even if the “area” is not a ski resort.

What if my patrol simply charges patients for such things as “ACE” bandages or crutches?  If such supplies are provided on a cash basis (or even if you accept credit cards), then HIPAA would not apply.  HIPAA only applies to organizations that electronically bill insurance companies for services.

What if my patrol accepts donations from “grateful patients”? Donations are not considered compensation and would not trigger any HIPAA obligation by the patrol.

I have reviewed the above and I believe that HIPAA may apply to my non-resort associated patrol, now what should I do?  You should seek further advice from your Region’s Legal Advisor.

So, go ahead and enjoy patrolling.  Follow what your ski area says with respect to the application of HIPAA to your patrolling activities and, generally, do not worry; that is not a HIPAA  coming down the mountain after you.   

Henry Williams, Eastern Division Legal Advisor

John Houston, Patroller, Seven Springs Ski Area


John Houston and Bill Cline, both of the Western Appalachian Region, contributed to providing the Division with information on HIPAA.  John Houston is a patroller at Seven Springs Ski Area and is also the Director of Information Services, Privacy Officer and Assistant Counsel to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  He deals with HIPAA matters in the course of his legal practice.  Bill Cline is the Regional legal advisor for the Western Appalachian Region.  For their help on this issue, the Division thanks them.

HIPAA: What Does It Mean to Patrollers?
By Bill Sachs, National Chair, and Bruce Ries, National Legal Counsel

Recently, many patrollers have expressed significant concern about their responsibilities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, a federal law that includes complex provisions for patient privacy. The reason people are talking about this now is because full compliance with the act was required by April 14, 2003. Since that date passed quietly around the time of many ski areas’ final day last season, many people are looking ahead to the coming season and wondering how HIPAA will affect them. For the rest of the article addressing this issue on the NSP web site, click here: