Mon, May 30, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Hundreds of sex offeners getting Viagra, study finds

AP , WASHINGTON

Nearly 800 convicted sex offenders in 14 states got government-funded prescriptions for Viagra and other impotence drugs, according to a survey by a news agency.

The majority of the cases were in New York, Florida and Texas.

Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, is administered differently in every state. Thus, while some states allowed Medicaid payments for prescriptions for the drugs Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, other states did not.

New York, acting on a tip, was the first to uncover that Medicaid had paid for Viagra prescriptions for sex offenders. Its report prompted the federal government, which provides states with funds for Medicaid, to order states to take steps to stop the coverage for these felons.

The states that provided registered sex offenders with subsidized impotence drugs are Florida, 218 cases; New York, 198; Texas, 191; New Jersey, 55; Virginia, 52; Missouri, 26; Kansas, 14; Ohio, 13; Michigan, seven; Maine, five; Georgia, three; Montana, three; Alabama, two; and North Dakota, one. That comes to 788 cases.

Texas now bans all Medicaid claims for impotence drugs.

"We want our Medicaid program to make the very best use of limited taxpayer dollars, and Texas taxpayers should not have to pay for these types of drugs," the state's health and human services commissioner, Albert Hawkins, said in a statement Friday.

In Virginia, the cost came to at least US$3,085. Governor Mark Warner issued an emergency order barring Medicaid from continuing to pay for the drugs for these men.

Kyle Smith, a spokesman for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, put it this way: "Do we have programs giving clubs to wife beaters or drinks for those committing DUI? Weird things happen in this world, and this is one of the weirder."

In Alabama, officials said the federal government previously had mandated that states pay for erectile dysfunction drugs.

"Now that we are armed with new information from the federal government, Alabama can and will deny this coverage for registered sex offenders," Carol Herrmann, the state's Medicaid director, said last week.

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