By Jacque Wilson, CNN
When Joe Biden announced last week that he was interested in running for president in 2020, what was striking was his unequivocal support for the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid.
Yet despite Biden’s overall support for the ACA and Medicaid, his administration supported legislation by Rick Santelli, who inspired the Tea Party and was one of many who talked down the economy of small business people in a CNBC segment that was supposed to “lay out the case for more cuts.”
Biden made the announcement while addressing the American Economic Association’s winter meeting in San Francisco. According to Buzzfeed, the most important point he made when he addressed the ADA was that it required that employers provide their employees with “an adequate minimum of paid sick leave to be able to care for themselves and family members in an emergency.”
His ADA speech drew sharp criticism from the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, who tweeted: “Hello from SF. This is not a speech about how to address gun violence. He’s attacking the American worker’s ability to provide for themselves and their families.”
Americans for Prosperity followed this up with a petition urging voters to “tell Joe Biden to drop his anti-worker agenda.” The group claims that the Secretary of the Department of Labor’s proposal puts employees “at greater risk of losing their jobs and suffering reduced hours and pay because they can’t take time off to stay home with a sick child or family member.”
Despite the dire implication of this statement, HuffPost’s Chris Geidner asked her sources to support her reasoning and came up with three responses. These sources are very familiar with the timing and scope of health insurance regulation and would have to have substantial knowledge of the vast response that would be sparked by such a proposal.
Her first source explained that workers whose employers do not provide them with paid sick leave would have to pay for the privilege themselves. Presumably that might result in those workers earning less and being ineligible for food stamps or other federal assistance programs. The source went on to explain that about 14.3 million households receive assistance from SNAP (Food Stamps) for some amount of time and that one in five households obtain assistance for a significant portion of the year. These homes are almost exclusively working families and rely on the program for immediate help during hard times.
Her second source told her that state governments generally do not provide sick leave for workers who are employed by hospitals and doctors’ offices. These professions do not have much unionized workforce, so they can afford to put their workers on unpaid leave without feeling the ramifications of that decision. On the other hand, hospitals are highly regulated industries with business owners who put a premium on keeping their health care workers healthy. A key reason for this is that hospitals’ most valuable assets are their people who they depend on for their business.
Last but not least, the source Geidner talked to explained that historically, people are more likely to get sick when they’re working in intensive care units, making them an ideal target for something that is very cheap and popular, like a sick note. A bunch of time off during a particularly bad flu season would allow the hospital to keep the worker healthy, their fellow employees healthy, and boost productivity. This is not unlike the public health benefits of air quality.
Yet when the Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who have a fever or other signs of an infection stay home, many employer-sponsored health plans dictate that these symptoms do not qualify for a business to cut someone’s compensation. Employers are allowed to take all these other factors into account, but the CDC is asking people to stay home to stop viruses from spreading.
Even if his company did plan to use sick time as a tool against his employees, the repeal of the ADA would prevent people from getting that sick note. This particular issue is seemingly at the heart of the concern for how workers at these hospitals would feel, as well as the criticisms of business owners, rather than Biden’s proposed regulation of employers.