If you thought that Medicare was only about helping out the elderly in time of need and that it was there to deal with the hardships of life as one gets older then it's possible that you might expand your horizons a bit, especially in terms of what is considered "hardship." While we have all seen the commercials in recent years concerning Viagra and Cialis, they really don't compare to the $188 million spent via Medicare for more than a half million of "male vacuum erection systems", commonly termed "penis pumps."

No this is not a joke. Between 2000 and 2010 Medicare doled out nearly $200 million dollars for what is commonly known to be just a novelty. However, that is not how Medicare defines these products.

They claim that they are "durable medical equipment, as long as a physician prescribes the device as "medically necessary" for treatment of erectile dysfunction." This puts these devices in the same league as a bedpan, oxygen or a wheelchair. I suppose if a man is going to be down enough to use a wheelchair or bedpan then Medicare wants to make sure he is up in other areas of his life.

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According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, annual spending on the pumps has gone up from $7.2 million in 2000 to more than $36 million last year.

It is still a tiny part of the $7.5 billion Medicare spends each year on durable medical equipment and outpatient supplies.

Even so, over the past four years, investigators have challenged more than $8 million in payments made for the devices, according to statements from federal prosecutors in several states and the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

So not only are we to presume that the men are growing here, but the program, like all government programs, are expanding and growing as well.

In the end this is how all government assistance usually works out. Representatives have the idea to help others who actually need help. The only issue they run into is that they don't have the money themselves to "help out," so they employee the use of taxation of people like you and me and confiscate our money for their "charity." Ultimately government does not have the authority to be charitable with our money. Individuals have the responsibility of charity and when they are charitable, they make much wiser decisions about what is a need and what is a novelty than government does.

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