House Votes To Ban Coverage for Impotence Drugs Under Medicaid, Medicare
The House on Friday voted 285-121 to pass a measure that would ban Medicare and Medicaid coverage for erectile dysfunction medications, the Washington Post reports. The House approved the measure, sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), as an amendment to a $602 billion Labor-HHS-Education fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill (HR 3010), which later passed on a 250-151 vote (Murray, Washington Post, 6/25). Supporters of the measure cited a recent Congressional Budget Office estimate that coverage of ED medications would cost the federal government $2 billion over 10 years after the new Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect in January 2006. Medicaid currently spends $15 million annually on coverage of ED medications, supporters said (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 6/25). King said that the measure would save the federal government $105 million next year (AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 6/25). According to the New York Times, the vote on the measure "came amid a national furor" over reports that state Medicaid programs have covered ED medications for convicted sex offenders (New York Times, 6/25). CMS in May clarified that states have the ability to block Medicaid coverage of ED medications for convicted sex offenders (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 5/24). One-hundred House Democrats and 185 Republicans voted in favor of the measure (New York Times, 6/25). Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced a similar measure in the Senate.
King said, "The public understands ... that we've crossed a line if we start compelling taxpayers to cover sex drugs" (Dinan, Washington Times, 6/25). He added, "We don't force taxpayers to pay for face lifts, weight-loss drugs, hair-growth treatment or vacations, so we should not force them to pay for sexual performance drugs" (AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 6/25). King also said that Medicare and Medicaid pay for "lifesaving drugs" and not "lifestyle drugs" (New York Times, 6/25). In response to recent findings that some state Medicaid programs have paid for ED drugs for convicted sex offenders, Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) said, "Doling out dollars to subsidize heinous crimes of sexual predators is a despicable use of taxpayer dollars and must be stopped immediately" (Washington Times, 6/25). However, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) said that men who have lost sexual function because of prostate cancer or other diseases should receive Medicare or Medicaid coverage for ED medications (Washington Post, 6/25). Johnson called the measure "a terrible precedent" that would "knock out a whole class of drugs from a formulary," adding, "Is the next round going to be hormones for women?" Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) added, "There is a value for Congress not to dictate to people what is important in their own lives" (New York Times, 6/25).
A number of health care groups and pharmaceutical industry representatives said that they oppose the measure because ED is a side effect of many diseases. Richard Atkins, CEO of the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, said, "If a patient is faced with the risk of impotence due to treatment from prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction drugs are not covered, he may decide for less-than-optimal cancer treatment or choose nothing at all" (Washington Times, 6/25). Ken Johnson, a senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Unfortunately, the House is telling these men, 'Tough luck, you're on your own.'" He added, "Hopefully, the Senate will view this important health issue with a little more compassion" (New York Times, 6/25).