HHS IG reports Medicare paying far too much for … penis pumps

posted at 1:21 pm on January 13, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Say, isn’t this the kind of nonsense the IPAB is supposed to prevent? Unless Medicare is saying that penis pumps are totally effective, of course:

Taxpayers paid nearly $175 million for vacuum erection systems (VES), commonly known as “penis pumps,” from 2006 to 2011, according to an inspector general report released on Monday.

And if it’s not bad enough that taxpayers paid for these systems, they also overpaid for them as well:

The federal government paid more than double the retail price for VES, the Department of Health and Human Services IG found. Medicare prices for the systems, the report said, “remain grossly excessive compared with the amounts that non-Medicare payers pay.”

Medicare paid 473,620 VES claims during calendar years 2006 through 2011, according to the IG report.

Frankly, I’m surprised that I’m the first one at Hot Air to grab this story from Lachlan Markay at the Washington Free Beacon. It’s got great potential for a series of double-entendres. Not to inflate anyone’s expectations, of course, but if this post lasts longer than four hours, please consult our website administrator. Lachlan himself notes that “Medicare payments for VES [vacuum erection systems] have swelled in recent years.” Groan.

On a more mature level, this calls into question the entire assumption that government can control costs through central command. The IPAB, authorized within the ObamaCare law, would have the authority to deny payments for services and devices, which Congress would have to override with supermajorities. In this case, though, Congress explicitly granted HHS the authority in 2000 to reduce the reimbursements for VES in an attempt to reduce taxpayer bills for the systems. HHS then authorized CMS to take action … which it never did.  Call that regulatus interruptus.

Are these devices effective treatment for erectile dysfunction? Perhaps, but only for a limited range. Then again, Viagra and Cialis are effective as well, but few if any insurance plans cover those. Unlike birth control medication (in its primary use), VESs and Viagra treat actual physical ailments but mostly remain elective and outside of insurance coverage. Why Medicare pays the bills for these devices is a question some taxpayers might want to ask, but even apart from that, this story says a lot more about regulatory dysfunction than it does about erectile dysfunction. Anyone who believes for more than four hours that the massively complex ObamaCare regimen will decrease that dysfunction and produce more rational outcomes should consult a head doctor immediately.

Note: This post contains and/or relates to a number of terms that will cause our spam filters to put comments that contain them in moderation. You may have to be patient while we sort them out. Just remember to thank the spammers rather than blame our filters, because without the latter you’d be reading mostly comments from the former.


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Defund this

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2014 at 1:22 PM

i don’t know what that is and i don’t want to know…

Sachiko on January 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM

“I’m telling you, baby. That’s not mine.”

Doughboy on January 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Well, there are all those penes/penises in DC.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Damn technology is taking over everything. Back in the day we had to do it manually — and we liked it!

affenhauer on January 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

It’s a metaphor for Obama’s turgid prose, voters buy it, voters get screwed.

Fenris on January 13, 2014 at 1:26 PM

But does Obamacare mean that Sandra Fluke will not have to pay for her VES?

Happy Nomad on January 13, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Note: This post contains and/or relates to a number of terms that will cause our spam filters to put comments that contain them in moderation. You may have to be patient while we sort them out. Just remember to thank the spammers rather than blame our filters, because without the latter you’d be reading mostly comments from the former.

Maybe the gov’t can pay for filter pumps.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2014 at 1:27 PM

What the hell is a penis pump and what is it used for?

OmahaConservative on January 13, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Pajama-boys, starting with the Pajama-obama

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Damn technology is taking over everything. Back in the day we had to do it manually — and we liked it!

affenhauer on January 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Shut it down! We have a winner.

Rio Linda Refugee on January 13, 2014 at 1:31 PM

i don’t know what that is and i don’t want to know…

Sachiko on January 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Whenever I see this I go hide in my manga closet and read Berserk until it all blows over.

Gatsu on January 13, 2014 at 1:31 PM

If you want an inflated penis, adopt a Senator.

Kafir on January 13, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Now we know why Pajama Boy was so excited about o’care.

antipc on January 13, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Does John Boehner know about this? Or Anthony Weiner?

HumpBot Salvation on January 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM

The future of welfare lines in America

blammm on January 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM

I guess I don’t understand why it is called a system. It seems like a pretty straightfoward process to me. Put another way, do you clean your rugs with a vacuum or a carpet dust removal system. A VES is nothing more than a Hoover with a different kind of attachment. How does that make it into a system?

Happy Nomad on January 13, 2014 at 1:37 PM

That’s a stiff price for the taxpayers to pay. It’s hard, very hard, to accept this sort of fraud. Medicare recipients are no doubt very thankful when its all said and done, but can’t people solve any problems on their own any more? Does every weak human need government help to stand up straight?

MTF on January 13, 2014 at 1:37 PM

If you like your erection you can keep your erection.

HotAirian on January 13, 2014 at 1:38 PM

“I’m telling you, baby. That’s not mine.”

Doughboy on January 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

“One credit card receipt for Swedish made pen!s enlarger. Signed, Doughboy.”

Flange on January 13, 2014 at 1:38 PM

blammm on January 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM

You were quicker on the keyboard.

Austin Danger Powers.

Oil Can on January 13, 2014 at 1:39 PM

If you like your erection you can keep your erection

HotAirian on January 13, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Note: This post contains and/or relates to a number of terms that will cause our spam filters to put comments that contain them in moderation. You may have to be patient while we sort them out. Just remember to thank the spammers rather than blame our filters, because without the latter you’d be reading mostly comments from the former.

Thanks spammers.

Flange on January 13, 2014 at 1:40 PM

What’s that, Sarah Kliff? Government price setting cuts healthcare costs?

blammm on January 13, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Just remember to thank the spammers rather than blame our filters, because without the latter you’d be reading mostly comments from the former.

LOL. You have a spammer problem with closed registration? I think you need a p.enis pump for that excuse for these ridiculous filters.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on January 13, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Tricky Dick is back!

Shy Guy on January 13, 2014 at 1:49 PM

With all that HHS has done / not done / mismanaged in the last 3 years, this is what the IG is focusing on?

Time for a new IG.

Athos on January 13, 2014 at 1:50 PM

What the hell is a penis pump and what is it used for?

OmahaConservative on January 13, 2014 at 1:27 PM

I think the name is self explanatory, no?

phatfawzi on January 13, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Emily Litella was not far off the mark.

Shy Guy on January 13, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Pajama boy comes out with a new pro-Obamacare book….”VES and Me: This Sort of Thing is my Bag, Baby!”

Happy Nomad on January 13, 2014 at 1:53 PM

http://tinyurl.com/kbf46ks

davidk on January 13, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Note: This post contains and/or relates to a number of terms that will cause our spam filters to put comments that contain them in moderation. You may have to be patient while we sort them out. Just remember to thank the spammers rather than blame our filters, because without the latter you’d be reading mostly comments from the former.

I had to wait years to sign up for an account to post here. How did these spammers get accounts and when you come across them, can’t you ban them?

cptacek on January 13, 2014 at 1:58 PM

A lib friend of mine LOOOVES to say “But, but, viagra…” while ignoring the fact that companies are not being FORCED to cover it.

DethMetalCookieMonst on January 13, 2014 at 1:58 PM

America gets stiffed again.

profitsbeard on January 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM

I don’t know what a penis pump costs but around here a rub & tug costs about $50 and that includes a happy ending.

So I hear.

myiq2xu on January 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

You’ll go blind!!

I’ll only do it until I need glasses!

koaiko on January 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

I had to wait years to sign up for an account to post here. How did these spammers get accounts and when you come across them, can’t you ban them?

cptacek on January 13, 2014 at 1:58 PM

It’s because male enlargement jokes are automatically flagged.

blammm on January 13, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Taxpayers paid nearly $175 million for vacuum erection systems (VES), commonly known as “penis pumps,” from 2006 to 2011, according to an inspector general report released on Monday.

… is HHS trying to put libfreeorgan and noforeskin… on unemployment!

KOOLAID2 on January 13, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Austin Powers: This sort of thing is my bag, baby!.

mechkiller_k on January 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Now that we’ve had a good laugh, what about all those other medical “aids” that are billed directly to Medicare?

You know, adult diapers, catheters, insulin, blood sugar testers, and all sorts of other items that are “free” to Medicare or Medicaid patients, shipped directly to them, and billed to Medicare? Has anyone done a cost comparison on those?

You don’t need a penis pump to screw the government, I bet.

Adjoran on January 13, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Where can I order one?

It’s um, for a friend.

BacaDog on January 13, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Ring toss.

Cindy Munford on January 13, 2014 at 2:28 PM

HHS then authorized CMS to take action … which it never did.

Given the past track record of this administration, one can only conclude the CMS took no action because the primary users of the penis pump are Democrats!

GarandFan on January 13, 2014 at 2:32 PM

I have a problem allocating resources to seniors for “recreational sex”.

There is simply no need for taxpayers to provide the “little blue pill.”

J_Crater on January 13, 2014 at 2:40 PM

*giggety*

JetBoy on January 13, 2014 at 2:44 PM

I have a problem allocating resources to seniors for “recreational sex”.
There is simply no need for taxpayers to provide the “little blue pill.”

So Sandra Fluke can screw around for free but geezers can’t?

Dingbat63 on January 13, 2014 at 2:50 PM

A lib friend of mine LOOOVES to say “But, but, viagra…” while ignoring the fact that companies are not being FORCED to cover it.

DethMetalCookieMonst on January 13, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Ask them which religion is fundamentally opposed to Viagra. (There isn’t one, as far as I know.) If they find one, ask if their insurance company is required to cover it.

cptacek on January 13, 2014 at 2:58 PM

It’s because male enlargement jokes are automatically flagged.

blammm on January 13, 2014 at 2:09 PM

He said those jokes are flagged because of spammers. My question is, how do spammers comment here anyway, where you have to wait for a sign up window, and then log in before commenting?

cptacek on January 13, 2014 at 3:00 PM

So the tax payers are getting “stiffed” so to speak.

esnap on January 13, 2014 at 3:22 PM

“Pain at the pump” no longer applies solely to the price of gas.

Flange on January 13, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Was this part of the stimulus package?

Flange on January 13, 2014 at 3:35 PM

My question is, how do spammers comment here anyway, where you have to wait for a sign up window, and then log in before commenting?

cptacek on January 13, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Some cyber squatter probably registers a whole bunch of accounts during open enrollment so that they can keep trolling or spamming even after the ban hammer is dropped. It’s most likely the MO of nonpartisan, a.k.a. sesquipedalian, a.k.a. Kunta Kinte, a.k.a. libfreeordie, a.k.a…

blammm on January 13, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Shocking, just shocking. The government would overpay for a product one company has outright named a Pos-T-Vac…..Pos T-Vac…hey wait, that is just Post Vac……………….

LifeTrek on January 13, 2014 at 3:51 PM

I did not read the Post – only the headline – but let me just say that I don’t believe you can ever pay too much for a penis pump.

Monkeytoe on January 13, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Wasting taxpayer money is the governments bag, baby.

catmman on January 13, 2014 at 4:09 PM

“If da docta tell me I’m impotent, then I gonna act impotent”

NOMOBO on January 13, 2014 at 4:40 PM

While this thread is a wonderful place for the best and brightest of HA posters to put their double entendres and wit, HEV systems are actually legitimately prescribed medical devices. Folowing a radical prostatectomy due to cancer my urologist/surgeon prescribed one of these systems for me (along with lots and lots of viagra) and I got it from a pharmacy. Total erectile failure is a common initial side effect of removal of the prostate and daily use of the pump and pills is necessary to promote blood flow and prevent atrophy of the p.enis. They are NOT fun to use! That having been said, my insurance did not cover the device and I paid for it out of my own pocket. Cancer free for four years now and haven’t used the pump thing for 2 1/2.

Trafalgar on January 13, 2014 at 4:59 PM

That’s VES, not HEV

Trafalgar on January 13, 2014 at 5:10 PM

This thread open to Ladies only.

ToddPA on January 13, 2014 at 5:11 PM

Here ya go Ladies.

My oldest Sister saw this on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967
when she was 15.

She said this guy got all the girls going…of course he
didn’t last long….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MifWlrkEBD4

ToddPA on January 13, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Trafalgar on January 13, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Bless you and glad you are now cancer free. I had no idea there was a non-explicitly-sexual reason for one.

cptacek on January 13, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Trafalgar: bravo my man. I too had prostate cancer attributable to Vietnam Agent Orange, per the VA, and had a radical. Never got the courage to try the pump but maybe I should.

Seems like Pink Ribbons is the only attention getter

Dingbat63 on January 13, 2014 at 8:55 PM