Context The United States (US) is the only developed country that does not guarantee short-term or longer-term paid sick leave. Objective This study used a multiyear nationally representative database to examine the association between availability of paid sick leave and frequency of emergency department (ED) use among US private sector employees. Study sample We used the National Health Interview Survey data (2012-2014). The final study sample consists of 42,460 US adults between 18 and 64 years of age and working in nongovernmental private sector. Results Our results suggest that availability of paid sick leave is significantly associated with lower likelihood of ED use, for both moderate (1-3 times/year) and repeated users (4 or more times/year). After controlling for confounding factors, respondents with paid sick leave are 14% less likely to be moderate ED users (adjusted odds ratio, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.79-0.93) and 32% less likely to be repeated ED users (adjusted odds ratio, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.50-0.91). Discussion Although expansion of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has not been shown to reduce utilization of high cost health care services such as the ED, our study suggests other factors such as the availability of paid sick leave may do so, by allowing patients to seek care through other more cost-effective mechanisms (eg, primary care providers). To reduce ED utilization, health policymakers should consider alternative reforms including paid sick leave.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine