Pump It Up: An Update

Another update: my story last week about how the federal government funds penis pumps for elderly gentlemen brought this wonderful note:

I teach high school government, and every single year during my unit on bureaucracy and health care policy I have my students use the following prompt as an in class discussion starter:

“According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare has spent more than $240 million of taxpayer money on penis pumps for elderly men over the past decade, and will surpass a quarter of a billion dollars this year for costs since 2001.

If a medical exam and history shows a senior on Medicare meets the relevant threshold—a diagnosis of ED—he becomes eligible for a wide range of options under the Medicare Prosthetic benefit. Treatment Options covered by Medicare include “oral medications, pharmacological injections, intra-urethral suppositories, vacuum erection devices, and implantable penile pumps.”

The cost to taxpayers for the pumps more than quadrupled during that period, from a low of $11 million in 2001 to a high of more than $47 million in 2010. And these represent only the costs for external devices- technically classified as “Male Vacuum Erection Systems”- and do not include the costs of implantable devices or oral drugs such as Viagra, which probably run in excess of $100 million each year.

Question #1:

Should taxpayers be paying for penis pumps for elderly men? Some private insurance companies cover these- shouldn’t government insurance programs cover them as well (ie, should people on government healthcare be treated differently just because they are poor or old)?

Question #2:

Should male reproductive health (including medical devices, oral drugs, etc) be covered by government insurance programs? Should female reproductive health (including birth control methods, etc) be covered by government insurance programs? What about gender-equality?

Question #3

If these devices are covered by insurance, should these medical devices be required to be built in the United States? Should we crack down on foreign penis pumps? Could this program be used to create American jobs and stimulate the economy?

Who says public education is totally gone?

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