Well, we've had our fun with Medicaid and Viagra. But I just know that if I don't repeat what everyone else is pointing to today that everybody will think I'm just out of it, namely that New York's State Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, has discovered that not only is Medicaid paying for Viagra and similar drugs, it's doing so for sexual offenders. There's been lots of news coverage, of course. As of this writing, there were already a few hundred links on Google News including the NY Daily News Free Viagra for Pervs, Newsday's Feds try to deny Viagra to sex offenders on Medicaid, and even the UK's Times, US government gives free Viagra to paedophiles.
Great catch, Alan. For you non-New Yorkers, he's a smart guy who, despite his properly serious public demeanor, is probably privately shaking his head on this one.
Couple of observations:
- Hevesi rather deftly tossed this issue to the Feds and they're the ones "scrambling" in most of the news coverage. I wouldn't want to be in Leavitt's office today.
- Hevesi's auditors found the problem by matching the Medicaid claims data they have with the listings of Level 3 Sex Offenders listed on the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Sex Offender Registry. Linking Medicaid data with data from other sources is one of the things that's explicitly forbidden by the Department of Health for others who wish to use the Medicaid data.
- Apart from the taxpayer's money that's being used to pay for the drugs, how aware are the physicians who are prescribing of the backgrounds of these patients? If the physicians don't know, should they be and how might they be made aware? Physicians' first ethical obligations are to their patients. How does or should that influence the decision to prescribe in these cases? Are there any instances in which there is a medical justification for the prescription despite or even because of the patient's legal history?
- You just know that somebody is going to take this the next step and suggest that felons, or at least these felons should not be entitled to Medicaid. Let's not go there right now. Just deal with the issue at hand.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.