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  • James Noblitt

Hospitals need to charge for parking! Part 2

Part one of this blog series explored how unfair it can be when a hospital charges for parking and argues that this charge was unnecessary. Today we will discuss the other side of this ongoing discussion: why hospitals must charge for parking. The main argument behind this charge is that hospitals need the money, either to provide parking services themselves or to assure that the parking lots are reserved for those who truly need them, and that these charges are not part of the care being provided by the hospital, therefore should not be covered by insurance.

Charging people for parking at hospitals is, as reported by Andre Picard, crucial for the care of patients. He conveyed hospital administrators and politicians stated that “parking revenues are an important part of hospital budgets and, without them, care will suffer.” He continues to explore other options, such as the hospital opening up their own lots in urban centers or validating parking, but both of these come with their own sets of difficulties. The probability is that the lots in the urban centers would be taken advantage of by people who were not going to the hospital, therefore defeating its purpose. Another problem that arises from hospitals investing in a large parking garage near them is that this cost will detract from the amount of money invested in patient care, such as better equipment or services. Validation of parking would be logistically difficult because it would create another task for the hospital workers, who are already doing an incredible amount of work, to have to do or would require for hospitals to hire someone else to help with the workload, leading to another cost.

Others agree that this charge is crucial for the hospital to run smoothly, but rather than for the funds it produces, they claim the logistics of hospital parking relies on it. The influx of people, from the patients to the visitors to the contractors, services and employees, can lead to shortages of parking spots. This makes it imperative to prioritize who gets parking and the best way to make people second guess parking can be this charge. While many hospitals do not validate parking, as discussed by Andre, there are some that will at least provide a reduced rate if the patient was there for various reasons, once more discouraging people from lightly deciding to take parking spots. For example, Andre states that “many hospitals offer cut-rate or free parking to those on dialysis or in cardia rehab programs.” However, the main issue seems to stem from the amount of parking available. Richard Wilson, Ottawa Hospital’s CFO, stated “We get more complaints about access to parking than about cost.” The employees of hospitals are not immune to this shortage of parking spots as many are on waiting lists for spots, and even other hospitals shuttle their employees from remote lots to save spots for patients. Of course, another reason for the limited availability is due to the increase in population. The fact that most of the hospitals parking structures were built to sustain a certain population of people in the 80s-90s, whereas now we are well over population expectations.

Wilson also mentioned that “the government does not help fund parking lots,” and, according to the Ontario Hospital Association, “after costs the revenue of the parking lots is always reinvested in patient care,” and, as mentioned above, if there was a need to invest this money into building a large parking garage this would take away the reinvestment to patient care.

Andre Picard reported the idea that this charge should not be covered by insurance due to it not being “medically necessary.” His basis of this statement revolved around the application of covering this payment for all patients and how this could lead to an argument for paying for transport to and from the hospital and eventually snowballing into the question “and why not free daycare or salary replacement when people are in the hospital?” He then states that there are other expenses that come from being in the hospital, such as food. Ultimately, the conclusion is that rather than parking being a hidden user fee, it is merely a part of the costs of “daily life and the cost of sickness.”

Tell us what you think, is charging for hospital parking something we should accept as part of the expense of a hospital stay or should this be included as part of something necessary for treatment?

We looking forward to hearing your feedback.

The Vark Team

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