The Bush administration’s way of shrinking the $427 billion deficit — cut $15 billion in spending while bringing on massive new debt — has caught the attention of Congress, members of which are coping with a $720 billion Medicare drug plan by forbidding erection medication.
Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are expensive, up to about $11 a pill. The Veterans Administration paid for about 1.9 million prescriptions for it last year, at a negotiated $5 per pill, but only up to four pills a month. The Medicare drug law, however, was passed with the understanding that there would be no negotiating prices with drug companies; erections and price controls are for veterans, not civilians, so they can’t even expect $38 million worth of the good stuff to match the military’s.
The justification, as defined by New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, is that “there’s no reason we should be covering lifestyle drugs for senior citizens.” In the same New York Times article quoting Gregg there’s amplification from Daniel J. Callahan, of the Hastings Center, because for some reason we should care: “This is not a good way to spend a limited amount of money, at a time other medical needs are greater. In many men, impotence is simply a function of age, though it may also be a result of disease.”
This is supposed to make a difference.
What these hypocritical men are missing — in this time of limited amounts of money! — is that medication for depression is also a “lifestyle drug” and, for that matter, so is medication for arthritis, and both are covered by Medicare. Who cares if some old codger can do his crossword puzzle? Who cares if he can muster the enthusiasm to get out of bed in the morning? Staying in bed under the covers is a far cheaper option, and television is free, whereas a newspaper with a crossword puzzle can cost up to $1.25 a day. And it doesn’t matter if someone has a legitimate reason for being depressed or if the arthritis is, you know, “simply a function of age.”
It really has nothing to do with whether these medications are “lifestyle drugs.” The real issue is that the Bush administration has plenty of money for Iraq and less for domestic issues. It’s choosing between Iraqi elections and U.S. erections.
Either there are so few Medicare members needing the drugs that the savings would be negligible or there are so many that there’s going to be hell to pay in midterm voting. A few million old men, half of our country’s most reliable voting bloc, angry and bitter over two years without sex?
Hard decision? Vote carefully.