Congress Cuts Funding for Viagra in Favor of Funding Katrina Relief

Published October 19, 2005

| Associated Press

Viagra users will have to give up their federal subsidies under legislation that aims to spend the money instead on the poor and victims of Hurricane Katrina (search).

The bill, approved by the Senate Wednesday and sent to the president for his signature, ends federal Medicaid payments for erectile dysfunction drugs as of Jan. 1, 2006. Medicare payments for such drugs will be terminated on Jan. 1, 2007.

Rep. National Deal, R-Ga., who sponsored the original House bill, said the government could save $690 million over five years by eliminating federal support under the two government health care programs for sexual performance drugs (search).

The savings will allow the government to extend for two years the Qualified Individual program that helps low-income families with their Medicare Part B premiums. It extends for three months a temporary medical assistance program that helps families make the transition from welfare to work.

Deal said the legislation would also provide $500 million in federal unemployment funds to hurricane-affected states to help them pay benefits to out-of-work people: $400 million to Mississippi and $15 million to Alabama.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the bill both benefits those living on the edge of poverty and "recognizes that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for certain lifestyle prescription drugs through Medicare and Medicaid."

Under Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, states will still be allowed to subsidize Viagra and other impotence drugs if they determine such drugs are medically necessary. But they will no longer receive federal matching grants.

Congress has made several attempts in recent years to end federal subsidies for erectile dysfunction drugs, but this is the first to clear both chambers and be sent to the president.

A survey by the Associated Press earlier this year showed nearly 800 convicted sex offenders in 14 states received erectile dysfunction drugs filled by Medicaid.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/10/19/congress-cuts-funding-for-viagra-in-favor-funding-katrina-relief