Paid sick leave reduces emergency department visits, study finds

New York City's 2014 paid sick leave mandate was tied to a decrease in emergency department and specialist visits, and more primary care use, according to a study published May 6 in JAMA Health Forum

The study included 552,857 adults aged 18 to 64 who were enrolled in Medicaid from 2011-17 in New York City. 

Findings showed paid sick leave, implemented in the city in 2014, was associated with a 0.6 percentage point reduction in the need for emergency care, including a 0.3 percentage point reduction in care for conditions that could be treated in a primary care setting. 

Mandated paid sick leave was also tied to an increase in the use of primary care and preventive health services, including blood cholesterol testing and colon cancer screening. 

Outside of New York City, where the mandate did not apply, the rest of the state saw increases in emergency care use among middle-aged Medicaid beneficiaries. Overall, the mandate was linked to a 2.5 percent reduction in annual emergency department visits, translating to 8,000 fewer visits. 

"While a 2.5 percent reduction is modest in the context of emergency department use overall, it is substantial by contrast to the null effects observed in studies of other strategies that aim to reduce emergency department use among people enrolled in Medicaid," researchers said. "The reduction, especially in visits for conditions that are primary care-treatable, is also clinically important because overcrowded emergency departments can reduce the capacity of healthcare professionals to provide appropriate resources to patients with critical conditions."

To view the full study, click here

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