Government Spends $172M on Penis Pumps?? Excessive or Justifiable?

As bizarre as it may sound, it’s actually true. According to CBS News, a recent report has been released questioning the government’s excessive spending on something as outlandish as penis pumps.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that penis pumps have cost the U.S. Medicare program a staggering $172 million over the five-year span between 2006 and 2011. The colossal total actually equates twice the amount the item would have cost at the retail level.

The office of the inspect general’s audit, stated Medicare, which is the government health insurance system for senior citizens, covered more than 450,000 claims for vacuum erection systems (VES), which came to a prodigious sum of approximately $172 million between the years of 2006 and 2011. The audit also reported that annual claims for the device almost doubled over that five year span. In 2006, annual claims tallied at an estimated $20.6 million. However, the government’s annual expenditure totaled more than $38.6 million by 2011.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the penis pump one of the few alternatives available for erectile dysfunction. The device is so commonly used, as it poses less of a risk than any of medical treatment options, like as surgical implantation of a device. So, while the device is relatively essential, it’s still a form of “grossly excessive” spending.

“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.”

The audit also pointed out that if Medicare would have conducted a price adjustment to mimic the retail price paid by non-Medicare consumers, the government would have actually saved around $14.4 million annually over that five year period.

“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 said in an email statement.

Do you feel that the government’s spending is excessive or justifiable?