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Patients react as free UIHC parking ends

BY JENNIFER DELGADO | FEBRUARY 25, 2009 7:39 AM

Elaine Andrews said she visits the UI Hospitals and Clinics every three months because she suffers difficult asthma problems.

The Lawler, Iowa, resident said parking for free has been a nice break financially. But now she must pay, and she fears the hourly fees will add up, especially because her hospital visits can last all day.

“It’s probably going to hurt me really bad,” the 47-year-old said.

Officials at the UIHC said Monday they will discontinue the complimentary parking program for outpatients on March 16 because of the economy’s effect on the health-care industry.

Increased hospital expenses and declining payments from third-party payers, such as insurance companies, are two reasons the program will be terminated.

“We are very sorry that financial issues have forced us to take this step because we understand this change will have a direct impact upon our patients and visitors,” said UIHC CEO Ken Kates in a statement.

The free parking began in 2002. UIHC spokesman Tom Moore said the hospital reimburses UI Parking and Transportation, which costs the hospital $1.2 million every year.

Instead of free parking, clinic patients will be offered a reduced rate. The lower fee will charge patients 75 cents in the first hour and 90 cents for every hour after that. The regular rate charges 75 cents for the first hour and $1.65 between one and two hours.

The daily rate for parking will be $15 for all parking. UIHC officials said they will still offer valet parking for a $10 fee.

Still, some people said they will be affected significantly when they start paying the hourly parking fee on top of their medical bills.

“It’s just too much money to park a cotton-pickin’ car so you can get health care,” said Sharon Voss. “It’s ridiculous.”

Voss, a Tipton resident, said she brought her grandson into the hospital on Tuesday for a checkup because he recently had surgery.

And free parking may not be the only program slashed because of the economy. UIHC officials are reviewing all programs and services in order to reduce hospital expenses, Moore said.

UIHC officials are already in the process of contacting patients about the new change, he said. Outpatients can expect notification through letters, phone calls, and signs in the parking ramps.


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