Washington, DC–A forthcoming report by the

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

(IWPR) estimates that giving employees access to paid sick days would reduce visits to hospital emergency departments (ED) and save $1 billion in medical costs annually. Public insurance programs currently foot about half this bill.


“We have known for decades that individuals without health insurance are more likely to use costly emergency room services,” said

Robert Drago

, Director of Research at IWPR and co-author of the report. “This study establishes that, regardless of whether someone has health insurance, having the flexibility provided by paid sick days reduces use of emergency departments.”


After controlling for various characteristics, including health insurance status, IWPR’s analyses reveal that paid sick days are associated with better self-reported health, fewer delays in medical care, and fewer emergency department visits for adults and their children.


Employees with access to paid sick days have an easier time getting to a doctor during normal business hours to care for themselves or family members. Access to paid sick days can help to decrease the likelihood that a worker will put off needed care, and increases rates of preventive care among workers and their children.


The United States spends approximately $47 billion annually on emergency department services. IWPR findings suggest that, by shifting the treatment of some preventable illnesses from emergency departments to less expensive doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospital outpatient settings, universal access to paid sick days would reduce annual health expenditures by around two percentage points-saving $1 billion annually.


Currently approximately $500 million of these preventable costs are covered by taxpayers through public health insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and Veterans Affairs services.


“At a time when many in the health care community, policy circles, and the general public are concerned about high and rising health care expenditures, the cost-savings available from making paid sick days universal should receive serious attention,” said

Claudia Williams

, Research Analyst with IWPR and co-author of the report


Paid sick leave legislation has been proposed in Seattle, Miami, Denver, and New York City. Paid sick days ordinances currently exist in

San Francisco, CA

, Washington, DC, and the state of Connecticut.


The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR)

conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.