Paid Medical Leave Legislation Gains Momentum

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Paid Medical Leave

USA Todayon Monday examined the growing debate in Congress and across the U.S.on legislation that would provide paid medical leave to all workers.Proposals already have been introduced in 13 states, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. San Francisco in November 2006 passed compulsory paid medical leave legislation, and the Washington, D.C., City Council is weighing a similar law. Some states intend to put the matter up for a vote through ballot measures in next year's elections. Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) also have voiced their support for the rulings, according to USA Today.

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The Bureau of Labor Statisticsreports that 43% of U.S. workers, or about 50 million people, do notreceive paid medical leave benefits. Employees who do not qualify forpaid time off for medical reasons often work in restaurants, retailstores and construction sites, USA Today notes.

DebraNess, president of the National Partnership, said, "This issue isgaining momentum because paid sick leave seems as American as apple pieand baseball." Dale Butland of the Coalition for Healthy Families saidemployers that provide paid medical leave would help cut expensesbecause workers who are sick will not spread their illnesses to others.Butland said, "If every other industrialized country can do it andremain competitive, there's no reason America can't."

However,trade industry groups contend that requiring employers to provide paidsick leave could force other coverage benefits such as health care andvacation leave to be reduced. Ty Pine, legislative director of the National Federation of Independent Businessin Ohio, said, "Paid sick leave isn't free," adding, "Show me where thelaw guarantees the business owner extra revenue to cover the costs"(Cauchon, USA Today, 11/12).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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