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Penis Pumps The Focus Of Medicare Fraud Investigation

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U.S. fraud investigators are looking into questionable Medicare payments for penis pumps, as spending on the devices has skyrocketed 500 percent over the last decade, Scripps Howard News Service reported.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that the taxpayer-funded insurance program spent $36 million on “male vacuum erection systems” last year –- up from $7.2 million in 2000, the news service reported. In 2010, Medicare paid for nearly 98,000 of the devices.

The pumps are an alternative to medications to help with erectile dysfunction (ED), a problem that becomes more common with age. Researchers estimate that up to half of men over 60 experience ED. The devices work like this: a tube is placed over the penis and a pump is used to remove the air from it, creating a vacuum that draws blood into the penis, according to the Mayo Clinic. A tension ring is used to support the erection, and then the pump is removed.

In one of the largest recent frauds, an Illinois man, Gary Winner of Planned Eldercare, was sentenced to more than three years in prison in February for shipping penis pumps to diabetes patients who did not order them. Winner purchased them for $26 a pop from online sex shops and repackaged them as “erectile pumps” that assisted in bladder control and other issues, according to prosecutors. He billed Medicare $284 each for the devices, part of a larger fraud that cost the insurance plan $2.2 million over four years, prosecutors said.

Separately, a report last month by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that Pos-T-Vac Medical, a Kansas company, refund the federal government $4.2 million. The report found the company failed to comply with Medicare document requirements for half of the sampled claims. Officials at Pos-T-Vac Medical told The Washington Times they disagreed with the government’s claims.

The penis pump fiasco is the latest in a wave of recent Medicare fraud cases since 2009, when HHS began collaborating with the Attorney General’s office to create special strike forces in fraud hot spots. For example, in the biggest financial bust in Medicare history, authorities in May charged 107 doctors, nurses and social workers in seven cities with scams that allegedly billed the insurance program $452 million.

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