Penis pumps cost U.S. government millions, watchdog cries waste

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:25am EST

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Penis pumps cost the U.S. government's Medicare program $172 million between 2006 and 2011, about twice as much as the consumer would have paid at the retail level, according to a government watchdog's report released on Monday.

The report by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services said Medicare, the government health insurance system for seniors, paid nearly 474,000 claims for vacuum erection systems, or VES, totaling about $172.4 million from 2006 to 2011. Yearly claims for the devices nearly doubled from $20.6 million in 2006 to $38.6 million in 2011.

According to the Mayo Clinic, penis pumps are one of a few treatment options for erectile dysfunction.

Government waste is a major issue in budget talks in the U.S. capital as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a $1 trillion spending bill.

"Medicare payment amounts for VES remain grossly excessive compared with the amounts that non-Medicare payers pay," said the report, dated December 2013. "Medicare currently pays suppliers more than twice as much for VES as the Department of Veterans Affairs and consumers over the Internet pay for these types of devices."

If Medicare had adjusted its payments to approximately the price non-Medicare payers pay, the U.S. government would have saved an average of about $14.4 million for each of the six years, the report said.

"Considering the strain retiring baby boomers will soon be placing on Medicare's budget, shouldn't we be focusing this entitlement program on real, life-saving treatment and equipment to serve the health needs of seniors - instead of subsidizing penis pump purchases?" Ben Domenici of the Heartland Institute think tank said in an email statement.

"And to those seniors who really do want one," added Domenech, "just buy it yourself - you don't need to send the bill to your fellow Americans."

(Reporting by Jim Loney; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (9)
Mylena wrote:
Better Medicare needs cover another matters, like cancer radiation, vaccines expensives drugs for diabetes, and another sickness, accesories for disable pepolbe. But, pumps for penis. ”
Geow up!! and a ssume you are getting older!!!!!!

Jan 14, 2014 9:41am EST  --  Report as abuse
Mylena wrote:
Better Medicare needs cover another matters, like cancer radiation, vaccines expensives drugs for diabetes, and another sickness, accesories for disable pepolbe. But, pumps for penis. ”
Geow up!! and a ssume you are getting older!!!!!!

Jan 14, 2014 9:41am EST  --  Report as abuse
hardboiled wrote:
America has some serious issues

Jan 14, 2014 11:14am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.