By Amanda Sangster - August 28, 2020
Finding parking in unfamiliar territory like a new hospital can be confusing and being charged for that parking can be stressful. Navigating cancer care is difficult enough for patients and caregivers without also worrying about incurring fees for travel expenses. While Moffitt Cancer Center offers free parking to its visitors, a new study finds that many cancer centers are charging patients.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that parking fees can increase the economic impact, or what is known as financial toxicity, for cancer patients and their caregivers. The study surveyed 63 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer treatment centers and found that only 20 centers, including Moffitt, offered completely free parking for all patients and visitors. Since travel expenses are rarely reimbursed by insurance companies, these fees can become a substantial cost for cancer care.
Overcharged and underreported
The study found high variability in prices with some patients facing thousands of dollars in parking fees throughout the course of their cancer treatment. Furthermore, 40% of centers weren’t transparent with their parking fees which makes incurring these expenses even riskier and more unpredictable for even the most prepared patient.
"If this kind of financial burden can interfere with successful treatment outcomes, then eliminating the burden should be a priority for hospitals."- Dr. Brian Gonzalez, assistant member of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Department at Moffitt
Compared to other financial burdens, the study estimates that parking and transportation costs are likely an underreported concern of patients. The researchers also noted that previous studies have found transportation costs to be one of the single highest out-of-pocket nonmedical cost for cancer patients. These past studies found that this financial burden can cause negative psychological impacts on a patient and may ultimately affect their treatment outcomes.
Dr. Brian D. Gonzalez, assistant member of Moffitt’s Health Outcomes & Behavior Program, says that this study is important because, “If this kind of financial burden can interfere with successful treatment outcomes, then eliminating the burden should be a priority for hospitals.”
Free parking for Moffitt visitors
Moffitt provides free parking to all patients at every campus and is one of just 20 surveyed cancer centers to do so. Moffitt also provides complimentary valet parking for visitors at the Magnolia and McKinley campuses.
“Some of our patients have multiple appointments at various clinics in one day, and many travel an hour or more to get here. Patients should be focused on treatment and recovery – not paying for parking. Offering free parking is one less worry for them and their families,” said Scott Artis, manager of Parking and Transportation at Moffitt. “Especially during a pandemic, we want our patients and visitors to have one less worry.”
Valet parking during COVID-19
Some patients may worry with COVID-19 that handing your car keys to another person could increase risk of transmission of the coronavirus, but you can rest assured that Moffitt’s practices are the best in the industry.
“With COVID-19, we’ve amplified our cleaning procedures to ensure that our valet system remains safe. However, we still offer self-parking for patients and visitors that feel more comfortable doing so,” said Artis. Additionally, patients and visitors may request a free wipe-down of their vehicle once the valet service delivers it.
Visitors can find additional information about complimentary valet and parking arrangements at Moffitt.org.