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Reminder for Medical Professionals

Docs asked to help curtail disability parking abuse
By Scott Warner

Lois Scott, Chicago’s chief financial officer, is calling on physicians to help stem an estimated $20 million annual cost to the city. And that cost comes from revenue the city pays for disabled drivers with special yellow-and-gray meter exempt placards who are allowed to park for free at metered spaces.

Ms. Scott estimates that the city has to reimburse the company that owns the parking meters as much as 50%, or $10 million, for those drivers who fraudulently use those spaces, or illegally allow others to use their special permit.

Furthermore, physicians may be held accountable, because they are the ones who sign off on these placards; the placards are only supposed to be issued to persons with permanent disabilities who have significant impairments that cause difficulty in physically accessing a parking meter. These are different from non-meter exempt permanent placards, which allow the authorized holder to park in spaces for persons with disabilities, but does not exempt the authorized holder from parking meter fees.

The city has sent a notice to medical professionals that falsifying information about the nature of a disability in order to qualify for a disability parking placard or license plates is a crime—whether committed by the applicant or the medical professional. The notice states that only people with a permanent disability who meet more stringent medical requirements qualify for meter-exempt parking. The notice further states that medical professionals who certify an application for any patient who does not meet the disability criteria face a Class A misdemeanor, a minimum fine of $1,000, and possible driver’s license suspension.

“There has been a dramatic spike in abuse of the permits,” Ms. Scott explains. “Unfortunately many doctors don’t understand how significant and costly an issue this is for the city. When Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, leased the parking meters from the city in 2009, metered parking cost only 25 cents an hour; that company has since raised the price to $6.50 an hour.

“We find that some people are misusing the placard when, for example some able-bodied person borrows their grandmother’s placard and parks all day for free, or uses a placard that was incorrectly issued and monopolizes a parking space for a week; some patients have been able to get physicians to sign off on a permit when they don’t qualify, most likely because of a misunderstanding over the regulations by the physicians.”

Ms. Scott, whose father was a country doctor in New York State, emphasizes that she has enormous respect for physicians, and knows that they want to do the best by their patients. “We’re not trying to second-guess our physicians, physician assistants and nurse-practitioners” she says. “We just want them to understand the regulations, and know what a tremendous burden is placed on taxpayers when the disability placards are misused. Unfortunately, the city will soon be cracking down on violators, and we want physicians and their staff to be fully aware of the situation.”

Physicians who would like to obtain a form for meter-exempt parking for their patients can go to:

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