'Like a knife in the back': Many cancer patients face high parking costs

A growing number of oncologists are voicing concerns about the indirect costs of cancer care — such as parking fees — that contribute to patients' financial burden, reports Kaiser Health News.

Parking costs have long been a point of frustration for patients. But now cancer researchers and some hospital administrators across the country are also scrutinizing these fees, KHN said.

The newsroom cited a small study published in JAMA Oncology in July 2020 that looked at parking costs at 63 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the U.S. Twenty hospitals offered free parking for patients. Parking fees varied drastically at the remaining 43 cancer centers, with some patients paying up to $1,680 in total parking costs during the course of their care, the study found. 

"For people who have to pay $15 to $18 every single time, which is what I remember paying, it really feels like the last straw, frankly — like kicking you when you're down," said study author Fumiko Chino, MD, a radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who went to medical school after her husband died of a rare cancer in 2007.

Parking fees not only put strain on patients, but could cause other healthcare accessibility issues, researchers argue. The fees could also dissuade patients from participating in clinical trials, Dr. Chino said.

Los Angeles-based City of Hope National Medical Center is one of the 20 cancer centers in the U.S. to offer free parking. Vijay Trisal, MD, a surgical oncologist and City of Hope's CMO, said patients have responded positively to the policy, which gives the hospital a competitive advantage.

"Charging cancer patients for parking is like a knife in the back," he told KHN. "We can't control copays, but we can control what patients pay for parking."

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