Canada has socialized medicine that covers a wide range of medical needs. We usually say that these services are “free” to Canadians. Of course, by “free” we mean that all costs are shifted to taxpayers. However, many hospital patients and even visitors get hit with a form of user fees.
These fees come in the form of parking costs. In a recent evening trip to my local hospital, I was charged $14 for parking from about 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm. This isn’t a lot of money, but it is much more than the going rate for evening parking in this area.
I could have taken the bus if I wanted to avoid paying for parking, but the last thing I was thinking about while heading to the hospital was a few dollars. I suspect this is true of most others who go to the hospital. So, hospitals are mostly free to charge what they want for parking. Hospital parking rates in my area having been rising much faster than inflation for several years.
Parking fees aren’t likely to ever be officially considered a hospital user fee, but from a practical point of view, they amount to user fees. It would be interesting to see what effect parking rates have on the number of hospital visits. Do some people put off a trip to the hospital because they don’t want to pay for parking? I can guess what the official answer would be, but I’d like to know the real answer.