Rant the third

I had an appointment with a doctor a few days ago. Her office is in a “medical building” (you know, those doctor-office buildings that look like corporate office parks) right next to the hospital, about twenty minutes from my house.

Her staff was very competent, professional, and friendly. The doctor was very competent, professional, and friendly. Overall, the visit was fine. I didn’t have to wait long to be seen, and I got some knitting done while sitting in the waiting room.

Two things bug me, though.

First, because it’s been over two years since my last appointment with this doctor, my records had been sent to offsite archival storage. To get them back into the office costs eighteen bucks. Which I (and not my insurer) must pay.

Why in the world does it cost eighteen dollars to pull a file from a cabinet and deliver it to an office? Especially since I’m certain that mine isn’t the only file on the delivery truck that day; this practice has six doctors who see a ton of patients, so it’s no doubt getting lots of files delivered regularly. Heck, even sending this thing via FedEx Overnight would cost a lot less money than what I’m being charged.

The most annoying part of this is that I have no choice. My file must be present at my exam, and of course there’s no way in hell they’re going to let me take it home with me and bring it myself to my next appointment. I don’t even get to touch it. (This is a far cry from practice at the Birth Center, where not only do I get to handle and read my own file on every visit, but I’m actually responsible for recording some of that data myself. Talk about patient empowerment!)

I was pretty resigned to paying this eighteen-dollar fee when I left my house to drive to the doctor’s office, but when I neared the building something else made my Annoyance Meter go nutso: a fee to use the parking lot.

This hadn’t been in place when I was last there. There’s no fee for the first hour, but the second hour will cost you four bucks. I know, it’s not like using a garage in New York City. But this isn’t New York City, where you’re paying for a very limited commodity. This is the Philadelphia outer suburbs. There is a ton of parking available at this office.

I asked the office staff about this and got a lot of exasperated eye rolling in return. Not aimed at me, though—in fact, they are as outraged about it as I am.

Parking fees at hospitals and medical buildings are just wrong. It’s not like the shopper who has a choice whether or not to use the valet parking at Lord and Taylor while shopping for a new wardrobe. Most of the time, people who are going to a hospital or to see a doctor don’t have much of a choice about it. They’re sick, someone they love is sick, they need help, etc. (And it’s easy enough to prevent freeloaders for taking advantage of free hospital parking: give out parking validation, and people who used the parking but didn’t actually visit a doctor or the hospital should get their asses fined.)

I’m lucky. This sort of parking fee usually doesn’t pose a financial hardship to me. And my recent medical appointment was just a checkup, not any sort of emergency. But what about people who have little money? And what about people who are sick, or sick with worry about someone else, and have yet another thing—however “minor” it might seem—to stress them out?

7 Responses to “Rant the third”

  1. Chrison 22 May 2008 at 9:02 am

    Ok, that $18 is just nuts!

  2. Imperatrixon 22 May 2008 at 9:24 am

    I luckily haven’t ever had to deal with this archival fee. Sounds to me like time for a letter to the doctor, with the threat of finding another practice if they don’t become more user-friendly!

    And yes, I do believe those charts are yours. And it’s your right to get a free copy of them. AT least, that’s my understanding.

  3. ariannaon 22 May 2008 at 11:18 am

    That’s ridiculous that your doctor visit cost you $22 PLUS copay. A copay is frustrating enough to me!! Those two charges are outrageous. And, I like your idea of validation! That would totally work.

  4. ariannaon 22 May 2008 at 11:20 am

    Although, my guess is that it’s the building owners who want to make money off of the patients, and that they wouldn’t be pleased to go from making $4/car to fines that might come up irregularly. Even though I do think people who take advantage of medical parking lots SHOULD be fined like crazy!! It’s like people who park in handicapped spots without a tag – it makes me SO ANGRY.

  5. Frankon 22 May 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Around here, the hospitals are “non-profits”, yet they do this kind of thing too (I hope they aren’t reading about the parking charges; I would hate for them to start getting ideas).

    Medicine in the US may be free market, but it’s certainly not capitalism As you so eloquently point out, the “customer” doesn’t get much choice in the matter, especially when your limited by your HMO or PPO.

  6. Katie Jon 22 May 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I agree with everyone and would definitely want to write a letter to the doctor. Crazy.

  7. Andamomon 23 May 2008 at 12:07 pm

    $18 is nuts if you saw this doctor in the last 7 years! Are they so busy that they store records off-site? Seriously, I would address this with your doctor or find another physician because it seems suspect to me. As you’ve probably read, I am in the process of gathering my records together and I was even able to get some records from my pediatrician!

    The parking seems silly — and like someone is getting too greedy!