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Report: Medicare has spent more than a quarter billion in taxpayer dollars on penis pumps for elderly

Monday, December 19, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: penis pumps, elderly, Medicare

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(NaturalNews) Taxpayer-funded health care spending continues to rise, particularly in the government's Medicare program, which now disburses more than half a trillion dollars every year for 49 million elderly and disabled Americans. But a new report compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows that, since 2001, Medicare will have spent an aggregate of more than a quarter billion dollars on a questionable medical treatment -- penis pumps for elderly men.

The Heartland Institute reports that the yearly disbursement for penis pumps, which are a type of "male vacuum erection system" that treats erectile dysfunction, more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2010. But such systems are considered by many to be medically unnecessary, especially since quite a bit of fraud is said to take place in this controversial category of Medicare coverage.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General, the "durable medical equipment" (DME) category of Medicare coverage, which includes penis pumps, is a "high risk" sector for fraud. This was made evident earlier this year when a man illegitimately collected more than $2 million in reimbursements from the program for purchasing relatively inexpensive items from adult websites for Medicare patients, and billing the system for more than ten times what he paid (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/ere...).

Fraud is so rampant in the DME category, in fact, that no other category even comes close. Another recent CME found that errors and improper payments associated with Medicare payments as a whole are just over eight percent. But the error and improper payment rate in the DME category tops 60 percent, an astounding figure that shows just how carelessly taxpayer money is being spent (http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/press/factshee...).

"At a time when the federal government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, do we really need to be spending money on this?" asked John Nothdurft, director of government relations for The Heartland Institute, concerning the issue. "I doubt you need a 'Super Committee' to realize that this is the epitome of wasteful spending."

According to a fact sheet compiled by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation back in September, Medicare spending as a whole is set to top $903 billion by 2020, which is nearly double the current amount (http://www.kff.org/medicare/upload/7305-06.p...).

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