June 10, 2005

Deal: Medicaid Shouldn’t Treat Impotence

WASHINGTON (AP) -- If the poor or elderly want Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction, they should buy it themselves and not ask taxpayers to foot the bill, a Georgia congressman said Thursday.

"Taxpayers are willing to pay for somebody's heart medication, but they are not going to buy their beer or their Viagra," said Rep. Nathan Deal, the Republican chairman of a health subcommittee that is looking at how to save money in the Medicaid program.

Deal signaled he would draft legislation to remove erectile dysfunction drugs from Medicare and Medicaid. His subcommittee is likely to hold hearings on the subject, he said.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue recently wrote to the state's congressional delegation, urging lawmakers to remove the association between impotence drugs and Medicaid - the state-federal program that provides care to 1.5 million poor Georgians.

Deal said Perdue doesn't need to wait for Congress to change the program in Georgia. States are allowed to define what is "medically necessary," he said, and some states - including Texas - have already determined Viagra is not.

Georgia's Medicaid program pays for the drugs because of a 1998 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decision that Medicaid should pay for drugs when doctors say they are needed, says state Department of Community Health Commissioner Tim Burgess.

Last month, a survey by The Associated Press showed nearly 800 convicted sex offenders in 14 states - including Georgia - got erectile dysfunction drugs filled by Medicaid.