Stat News ran an article on hospital parking. It’s like adding insult to injury. In addition to patient care, hospitals are also in the business of making money off parking lots. People have no other option than to park their cars in hospital-owned lots when visiting a hospital or the medical office buildings nearby. There is even a Reddit group complaining about hospital parking fees. According to Stat News:
For many patients, one of the most antagonizing parts of a hospital visit is paying for parking.
Indeed, a new study found that hospital parking fees can really add up depending on patients’ needs and the location of care.
Those parking fees aren’t just an annoyance for the sick and injured, according to a new paper in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. The charges are actually eating into their financial well-being, particularly for people who have cancer and have to make frequent visits to the hospital for treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.
A Canadian radiation oncologist conducted the study on hospital parking fees. He said for some patients parking costs are a burden.
“That’s a major concern when you tell them they need to come to the hospital every single day for the next five or six weeks,” Al Balushi said. “Parking is expensive.”
Patients in countries where hospitals care is largely free at the point of service especially chaff at the thought of parking fees.
“It’s disgraceful to charge those who are critically ill, those who take someone injured or ill to a hospital, or those who are visiting terminally ill,” one person told a local U.K. newspaper this past September after the local hospital brought back parking fees that had been suspended throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other research in the U.S. has similarly found hospital parking prices contribute to what’s known as “financial toxicity” — the idea that having a serious illness like cancer is stressful and costly on its own, and only made worse when people may have to cope with other expenses like travel while potentially missing work and losing income.
I was curious about how big a problem hospital parking is and discovered numerous articles about hospital parking fees. In the Dallas area where I live fees daily fees range from $12 to $14. The first hour or two is usually $4 to $5. According to the study:
Parking fees consistently come up, unprompted, in conversations that Mustafa Al Balushi, a radiation oncology resident at the University of Alberta, has with his patients. Al Balushi is one of the authors of the new paper and will soon start a fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston — where parking fees are up to $20 per day, if validated.
Mirroring the study’s findings in Canada, parking fees are usually higher in U.S. cities that have higher costs of living. Parking rates for New York hospitals are often $30 or more per day. Houston Methodist charges $7 for a visit that lasts fewer than three hours and $13 maximum per day. Indiana University Health’s main hospital in Indianapolis charges $5 for visits under two hours and $18 for a full day. The University of California Irvine Medical Center charges $1 for every 20 minutes, which maxes out at $16 per day. Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas charges a daily maximum of $5. Parking is free at Detroit Medical Center.
I think the article is wrong about Baylor University Medical Center capping parking fees at $5 daily. The embedded link shows some parking lots charge $8 for two hours. When I worked at Baylor visitors would park blocks away to find a parking meter that was cheaper for a short-term visit. Some lots were for employees, while others were for patients and guests of patients. If someone came to the hospital they could also park in privately-owned parking lots that were generally cheaper but often farther away. When a visitor came to the building where I worked (which was generally other Baylor employees) we would often give them a parking token to get out of the lot without paying. These tokens were the size of a nickel with the company logo. The receptionist generally kept tokens in her desk. It became a problem not long after when some employees learned these tokens also worked in the toll booth machines for the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA). The NTTA was not amused and wanted reimbursed to the tune of several thousand dollars in lost revenue.
That hospitals would find yet another way to extract funds off peoples’ suffering should come as no surprise, though. Perhaps the reason people carp about hospital parking is that where I live parking is usually free unless you try to park downtown. Most businesses make parking available to their customers for free. This includes many hotels, movie theaters, shopping malls and grocery stores, but not large urban and suburban hospitals.