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Medicare-funded penis pumps add up to big spending

medicarelogo121009_optBY PAM LOBLEY
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
NOW THAT’S FUNNY

Since 2001, Medicare has spent $240 million on penis pumps for elderly men. That’s what I call a stimulus package.

I was not aware that my tax dollars went to pay for this type of thing. I’m thinking that when this news gets around taxpayers are going to get pretty mad – and this program will have limp support among Americans.

In 2001, Medicare spent $11 million on these devices. By 2010, they were spending $47 million per year. So the spending started small, but became bigger and bigger.

And it’s just going to get worse in the future, because with Obamacare, they don’t just give you the pumps, they have to buy you dinner first.

The $240 million is only for penis pumps, which are external devices, and does not include the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on implants or drugs like Viagra.

If a senior on Medicare receives a diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction, he becomes eligible for a wide range of options under the Medicare Prosthetic benefit. Treatments could include “oral medications, pharmacological injections, intra-urethral suppositories, vacuum erection devices, and implantable penile pumps.” All covered by Medicare.

I know Medicare was created so that seniors would not have to choose between food and medicine. I agree with that. And yet a few weeks ago Congress rejected reforms suggested by the USDA to make school lunches healthier. (See my column from a few weeks ago: "Congress Declares Pizza a Vegetable"). They rejected the healthy reforms because they were too expensive. But Congress never said penis pumps were too expensive. So now we’re back to choosing between food and medicine. Except in this case, we’re choosing between healthy food for poor kids, and medicine for the sexual enhancements of elderly men.

I guess what the debate really comes down to is: are these devices medically necessary? We need to decide as a country if ED is a condition that should be covered by Medicare, or if it is something the patient themselves must be responsible for.

I know what those stiffs in Congress will say.

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Follow her on twitter @plobley.

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