Effect Measure

Sick birds and sick workers

Yesterday we took note of the mirror image of absenteeism, presenteeism. The concern here is that people will show up to work sick and if they are infectious, spread influenza or whatever else is going around. As we noted people have various reasons for working sick, not the least of which is that they cannot afford to “waste” a sick day in case they need the few they have for family emergencies (like a sick child) or simply because they don’t have paid sick leave and need the money. Almost half of US workers are in that position. So various proposals have been made to require paid sick leave for companies of a certain size. Needless to say neither the business community nor some commenters here are wild about the idea.

On the other hand, many of these same people have no trouble criticizing Indonesia for failing to pay adequate or sometimes any compensation to farmers and families they are telling that they must kill their backyard poultry or farm flocks. It’s not just Indonesia, eithr. The virus has now been found in poultry or wild birds in 52 countries. In all of them, culling has been ordered or recommended. A recent letter in CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases surveys the current compensation situation:

Preemptive culling creates a major concern with regard to compensation. In Nigeria, for example, affected farmers have yet to be compensated >50 million Nigerian Naira (>US$ 0.4 million) because of the ministry’s cash flow problems. On the other hand, US poultry farmers who participate in a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to prevent the spread of disease would be fully compensated for loss of poultry and equipment if even a low-pathogenic strain of avian influenza was found in the United States. This rule not only strengthens US protection against avian influenza but also minimizes any negative effect on the US poultry trade. (Kanamori and Jimba, Letter in Emerging Infectious Diseases, in text cites omitted)

Where should the money come from? In many countries the bill is bigger than the government can pay. International donors are making up some of the difference in some places, but there is a large gap remaining and with it the continuation of a potentially dangerous close contact of millions of people with millions of infected birds. It is now well understood that compliance with compulsory reporting and culling of infected birds is low when compensation is low.

In the US, the taxpayer will foot the bill if the raiser is in the USDA program (at least according to this Letter, although I couldn’t ascertain if it were in force already, how much of the US poultry population is covered or other details; if anyone knows, please leave a link in the Comments).

This seems like a prudent position for the USDA to take (although coverage is clearly critical; who is “in the program”?), but I cannot help making this observation. In the US we will have a mandatory paid sick leave policy for birds but not a mandatory paid sick leave policy for workers.

US sick leave policies are for the birds.


  1. #1 attack rate
    January 28, 2007

    In Australia, we have both state and federal acts in our animal health emergency response agreements stating the proportion of industry and government funding for the eradication of various exotic disease. This agreement includes compensation payments. The agreements have been made with industry in advance, so that no haggling is happening as Rome burns.

    I believe the details are at the Ausvetplan page on http://www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au

  2. #2 M. Randolph Kruger
    January 29, 2007

    Revere, in Indonesia its in the cats, the waterfowl and pigs. So the suggestion is that the people are now on the same level of the consumption level animals? So we cull chickens then leave the cats to do the spreading? I cant see how anyone could equate the two sides. Humans who keep the birds that get infected get compensated, then they go right back to producing what? Infected birds.

    So the suggestion is that compensating workers to be off on “sick” leave especially in the US doesnt have any recourse by the employer who provides the sick employee a job? Seems to me we are now indemnifying illness at the expense of the employer if thats the case. So who is responsible for them getting sick? If someone has sex with you that knowingly has AIDS, then its attempted murder. So if they come to work sick the next logical step is that if someone else gets sick from someone at work then the employer is going to be responsible? Goodbye to all jobs then if that ever gets into the workplace. You will be terminated for being sick, not compensated for it. Insurance premiums would result in no insurance and then quid pro quo, no jobs.

    Its nice to have these ideas out there, but as usual no one runs it down to the end result. That would be massive unemployment…Then of course we would have to pay for them to be fed and cared for. Is it free lunch to suggest sick leave. Five days of sick leave isnt going to come close to covering a pandemic. After five days what? They go back to work, bring it home, then everyone gets sick. No checks and balances here Revere that I can see. Only fraught with more problems and someone suggesting that an employer pay for someone to be sick. How is this? Dont come to work with an infectious disease such as bird flu, strep, flu. I hear the trial lawyers revving up already for this one.

  3. #3 revere
    January 29, 2007

    Randy: As usual I have trouble parsing your response, but let me give a general one. I don’t think we should make employers pay for universal health care. We need to break the bond between health insurance and work. I think it should be a gov’t function, as it is in most (all?) developed countries. We are already paying more than any other country and getting less. So it would save money, not bankrupt us. Regarding sick leave, yes, you can maintain that position. Just as the gov’t of Indon doesn’t want to pay for someone else’s chickens. They come home to roost, though, and everyone pays more. Sometimes with their life. That’s the end result.

  4. #4 Judy
    January 29, 2007

    Revere: Even companies that have paid sick days require you to bring in a statement from a doctor if you are out for more than two days in a row. If you do not have health insurance it is out of the question so people go to work sick anyway, hoping they will feel better tomorrow or the next day because without the statement, they will be fired for missing work. People know when they are sick and should stay home; no one wants to work when they are ill, but lots of employees in this country know that they have no choice.

  5. #5 M. Randolph Kruger
    January 29, 2007

    Revere the reason that medical care in this country costs so much is because the loop between lawyers and the ability to sue needs to be disconnected. Those other countries you speak of are going broke because they dont provide for their defense, we do. Their health care systems are now burgeoning bureaucratic disasters. I read last week that the wrong kidney was taken out in Norway because of a paperwork glitch. Sure it happens here but you dont get to sue for it there.

    You could argue the point of course but take Norway that has less of a population of Memphis, Birmingham, and Nashville combined. They are going broke even though they have N. Sea oil backing their government up. Doctors make exactly the same thing there whether they are brain surgeons or GP’s and they get sued for it. Whats a kidney worth?

    If you have trouble connecting all of the dots in the micro up to the macro. Let me know and I will explain how as an employer that I pay nearly 100,000 a year in insurance and benefits for a 20 person company. So now you are talking about FORCING a company by law to provide healthcare for its workers. Show me where that kind of taking is legal. Is it because the people cant compete here any longer? We just raised the minimum wage. We cant live here on less than about 15 per day. So lets raise the “living wage” in San Francisco. Thats pure bull. It has no end, it never reaches equilibrium and it never, ever drops when conditions are good. It only insures mass inflation.

    I cant see how you disconnect from the link of what I have to give up for those sick days and how they directly and indirectly connect to some schmo down in Honduras who doesnt get benefit one that we compete against here. Manufacturing except in extreme heavy in the US is gone. Airline pilots used to make a lot of money to keep you safe, truck drivers are coming up on a par with them now. Everything we have had in our 20’s now belongs to some third world nation. And now you want to foist healthcare onto the employers of the US? Get used to soup lines.

    Every society has fallen in most parts due to its social welfare system or the lack of ability to provide for its defense. The US is no exception. So if we are in decline as you say, then okay why bother hastening it with UHC that the country cant afford. We could throw down all the weapons, start a war with China or Russia, let them kick our asses and then apply for foreign aid. You would raise taxes even more and then urps, wonder why people cant pay their taxes. You assert that we pay too little in taxes. So raise taxes for a UHC program that would spin out of control. We cant even pay for the trillion dollars that the prescription drug plan put in.

    I just cant see how you fail to see the end results of this kind of presenteeism/absenteeism/UHC works into the fold of things. Maybe, just maybe if the bad actors went away we would see a change but not in todays world.

  6. #6 revere
    January 29, 2007

    Randy: There is little evidence that the high cost of medical care in the US results from lawyers. That’s propaganda from the medical profession and even more from Big Pharma. As for paying for Europe’s defense, they haven’t asked for it lately nor do we provide it except through NATA which they also contribute to. I’m already paying for health care when I buy an American built car and lots of other things with employer based insurance and the ridiculous administrative costs of insurance companies which they spend to identify low risk policy holders so they can make more money. I posted on the cost breakdown in another post. With UHC your insurance payments would go to zero and you’d save money, and UHC is cheaper than insurance company financed health care. Did the rise in the minimum wage affect any of your workers? If not, then what is your complaint. It affected almost no one except a few on the margin. Big to do about nothing on both sides.

  7. #7 M. Randolph Kruger
    January 29, 2007

    Its not propaganda when you live in a state that provided UHC for just 10 years and then dumped it completely because the state went technically bankrupt. All of those TennCare people got better care than the traditional insurance carriers and we got to pay for both. The cost for insuring less than 15% of the population accounted for every dollar of the states budget within just four short years, then we spent another two trying to save it with tax increases, then the final two dumping it. This was according to William Jefferson Clinton “to be the example of how healthcare was to function” in a UHC environment. My health care payments would go to zero you are right. On the other hand my taxes would triple as the uninsured become insured at my expense. They would pay for nothing and go about their way of figuring out yet another way to milk the system. The why should I work scenario plays out. They dont even try to work and this is socialism in its finest form.

    Revere, I saw people in wheelchairs and on dialysis on the steps of the state capitol that lost all of their care completely as a result of socialized medicine. Those are the people that cant work that need it and they were covered before and during TennCare, but not afterwards. The bank was empty. No more money to throw at it.

    For people who wont work, I suggest they get nothing. Working at McDonalds is beneath them even though they drive very nice cars, get food stamps and aid for dependent children. Able bodied men and women all. But general labor is beneath them. For the others who run around with an oxygen bottle or down to a dialysis center they should have the net that they had before things went south for them. Now they dont get skippy. In fact they moved to Mississippi because they couldnt get care here any longer. Mississippi?!!!!!!

  8. #8 SmellyTerror
    January 30, 2007

    Randolph: Virtually every industrialised nation on earth can provide universal health care. It costs less and provides better outcomes. This is the simple, verifiable fact.

    Why can’t the US do something that everyone else can?

  9. #9 M. Randolph Kruger
    February 1, 2007

    There is one key thing Smelly you forget. We are a capitalistic society in the US. You are speaking of socialism and each and every time we have headed down this road not only did things get bad, they got worse. I do NOT want the USGovt. having anything to do with my healthcare, nor having their hands on my money to determine if I am paying enough for some other schmo who doesnt have it. UHC is dead in the water friend. It isnt ever going to happen. Pandemic would hasten its demise as they could never tax enough to pay the bills if it shows up. It would bankrupt the country thats already bankrupt and it was before we went to Iraq. Its all paper. One day and soon our creditors will ask for gold again and we will be in deep stuff.

    You also must understand that every state has a different plan on how to do this stuff and the ones that have something approaching it are already on the ropes financially. Hell yeah they want the Feds to take it over. Tennessee though didnt have the option, no one to drop it back on. So they shut it down and the recipients that needed it with them. Tough deal.

    Decisions are going to have to be made in short order. We will be out of Iraq in a year or so. Then what? No more excuses. Every dollar taken in will still be accounted for by “entitlements”. Someone please show me “entitlements” in the Constitution. I say it again, you are afforded the right to “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, NOT that it will be provided to you. Reveres answer is to JUST RAISE TAXES! Yeah that would work and they would come up with something else that someone thinks that the people need. What the people need to do is to provide for themselves and quit expecting government to give it to them at the expense of others. Legalized theft is what taxes are unless they are for the things that they were in the Constitution. States can do what they want on their own. This system of giveaways is going to collapse in a pandemic and then you are going to lose probably as many as you did from starvation as you did from the bug.

  10. #10 revere
    February 2, 2007

    Randy: I guess the folks in the military and in Congress are socialists, then, because they have good health care plans run by the government. Thank goodness they are protecting us from such a fate. I’m glad you’d rather have your health care decisions in the hands of some 21 year old clerk in St. Louis who works for an insurance company.

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