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Viagra for sex offenders?

Byline: The Register-Guard

Here's one for the "how in heaven's name did it take so long for somebody to figure this out?" file: Seven years after a directive resulted in Medicaid-paid Viagra for sex offenders, the federal government has begun notifying all 50 states that they no longer are required to provide the drug.

Seven years? Surely someone in the vast Medicaid bureaucracy must have questioned this nasty little loophole before now. Surely some dutiful federal employee sitting in a cubicle should have anticipated what a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called an "unintended consequence" of a Medicaid law that requires prescription drug programs to include Viagra.

"Unintended consequence" - a textbook euphemism. As Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., observed, "giving convicted sex offenders government-funded Viagra is like giving convicted murderers an assault rifle when they get out of jail."

Give the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services credit for acting just one day after the New York comptroller's office revealed audits that found nearly 200 rapists and other high-risk sex offenders received taxpayer-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions.

But seven years?

In Florida, officials report that the state paid $93,000 to provide Viagra to 218 sex offenders over the past four years. (Keep in mind that the audits covered only Viagra and not other drugs that treat sexual dysfunction.) While the same analysis hasn't been done elsewhere, there's no reason to think the situation is different in other states. Federal officials say policies on Viagra under the health care program are the same across the nation.

For seven years, convicted rapists, pedophiles and other high-risk sex offenders have been strolling out of pharmacies clutching little bags containing erectile dysfunction drugs that were purchased with taxpayer dollars.

Such "unintended consequences" make it easy to understand why many Americans regard the federal government in general, and vast entitlement programs such as Medicaid in particular, with such distrust. In any government agency, there are bound to be occasional abuses. But Medicaid-paid Viagra for convicted sex offenders? For seven years?

Perhaps its time for the pharmaceutical industry to develop a new miracle drug that treats another distressingly common malady - the one called bureaucratic brain dys- function.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Audits reveal Medicaid reimbursements
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 26, 2005
Words:367
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