Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No More ED Drugs on Taxpayers' Dime

Prompted by news that Medicaid offices in New York state had paid out more than $85,000 over the past five years to provide Viagra to convicted sex offenders, authorities around the country are moving to end the practice of using tax money to underwrite the sex lives of the underclass. The New York report was quickly followed by one in Florida that revealed that, over the past four years, $93,000 of taxpayers' money was spent to give 218 sex criminals erections.

Now Governor Jeb Bush is seeking federal approval to deny the provision of Viagra and other recreational drugs (Cialis, Levitra) to all Medicaid recipients.

The question is: Why does he need federal approval? Why was the government picking the pockets of the taxpayer to build trouser tents?

According to the Associated Press, "It's not clear how many people in Florida are being reimbursed for Viagra or other drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, or ED. But [Florida Agency for Health Care Administration] spokesman Jonathan Burns said the state paid out $4 million for about 170,000 claims for ED drugs in calendar year 2004."

Four million dollars? For party drugs? A Republican state legislator, Ray Allen of Grand Prairie, Texas, said that "convicted sex offenders do not have a right to have a happy sex life at the expense of taxpayers." That's clear -- but is Mr. Allen implying that other people do possess such a right? Just which Texans -- or Americans -- does he think are entitled to "a happy sex life" at our expense?

At least veteran U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has seen the light. According to Reuters,

No federal money could be spent to pay for Pfizer Inc.'s Viagra and other drugs for enhancing sexual performance under legislation unveiled on Tuesday by a key Republican senator.

Viagra and competing impotence treatments Levitra and Cialis are "lifestyle" drugs that taxpayers should not have to cover, said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated the Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs would spend $2 billion on such drugs between 2006 -- when new Medicare prescription drug benefits start -- and 2015.

"We live in a world of limited resources and those dollars could be spent more wisely," Grassley said.

* * *

Grassley's bill would prohibit any federal program from spending money on Viagra, Levitra and Cialis when the drugs are prescribed for sexual performance. Researchers are studying other uses of the drugs and the legislation would not prevent coverage if the medicines were used for other treatments, Grassley said.

Imagine -- a politician with common sense in Washington! Too bad Grassley has to get the rest of Congress to go along with his proposal. The erectile dysfunction lobby is sure to flood Capitol Hill with little blue pills in an effort to preserve its taxpayer subsidy. Grassley and the taxpayers will need some help against that onslaught.

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