Offering Paid Sick Time Could Save the City Money, Report Says

By Mary Johnson on February 17, 2012 10:57am 

Dr. Michelle Lin, an ER doctor at Bellevue, said she has seen firsthand the devastating effects that can occur when workers don't have access to paid sick time.
Dr. Michelle Lin, an ER doctor at Bellevue, said she has seen firsthand the devastating effects that can occur when workers don't have access to paid sick time.
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Working Families

MANHATTAN — Giving more New Yorkers access to paid sick days could save the city nearly $40 million per year in emergency room services, according to a report released Thursday.

The reported by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that public health insurance systems, like Medicaid, would also save about $28.4 million annually from reduced emergency room visits while the city would save another $5 million a year in such expenditures.

The release of the study comes as elected officials have proposed that employers offer paid sick days for their workers as a way to make New Yorkers healthier while saving the city money. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, has proposed cutting some $7 million from the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC).

The call for paid sick days also comes amid a push for the City Council to pass the so-called Paid Sick Time bill. The measure would ensure 1.5 million New Yorkers without access to paid sick days are able to take time off when they or their families are ill. So far, 35 council members have pledged their support, as have various labor unions, community organizations and small businesses, according to a press release.

"Instead of cutting the budget for HHC, we can save money by keeping New Yorkers healthier," City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez said in a statement. "The bottom line is, paid sick days is a money saver for our New York City."

According to figures from the Community Service Society of New York, half of working New Yorkers say their employers don’t offer paid sick leave, and about 41 percent of workers have no access to any kind of paid leave, whether it be for vacation or illness.

With no paid leave, those workers are less likely to get preventive medical care and more likely to end up in emergency rooms, where the cost of care is much higher, said Barbara Gault, vice president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Dr. Michelle Lin, an emergency room doctor at Bellevue Hospital, said that she has witnessed firsthand the devastating effects that can occur when workers are denied paid sick days. She recalled, for example, a young patient who was rushed to the emergency room while suffering from a life-threatening asthma attack.

"Her mother had been unable to skip work for a routine pediatrician’s appointment," Lin said in a statement. "A simple intervention could have prevented her daughter’s devastating attack."

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