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Penis Pumps -- A Hard One to Swallow

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Last week, according to the inspector general for Health and Human Services ("HHS"), American taxpayers overpaid $86 million for vacuum erection systems ("VES"), also commonly known as penis pumps. At first blush, this sounds like a hard one to believe. Most Americans are aware that our health care system is at best, well, limp. But learning that our hard earned tax dollars are facilitating boners for senior citizens takes waste to an entirely different measurement.

In 2012, U.S. healthcare spending reached $2.8 trillion dollars. Reports about waste and fraud vary, but it appears by all accounts that fraud approaches one hundred billion annually. With a system that inherently makes capturing waste and fraud so difficult, it does seem bizarre that taxpayers would pay for the pleasure of elderly men. Oversight is difficult enough and trying to monitor the authenticity of a man's erection seems nearly unsurmountable. Are we going to add a billing code that provides for "erection auditors"? Or what about covering vibrators for great grandmothers who have desensitized labia? That might be entertaining for some, but certainly it isn't feasible or cost effective.

Unfortunately, there is no doubt that a huge portion of these overpayments are due to frivolous claims. We all could probably agree that funding a penis pump for post-operative prostate cancer is a good expenditure. It certainly could contribute to one of societies biggest challenges, mental health betterment. But what about those who are pleasure seekers and are just looking for tax payer dollars to "pump them up"?

As a forty-one year old man -- who has lost many things in life, including my hair -- I don't view this topic only in jest. I fear the day that I will need my own penis pump -- my luck, it's inevitable. And I do empathize with those whom are legitimately (not for an extra inch) in need. I once was prescribed Flomax and wasn't told ahead a time that it's possible that I could experience a side effect. Fast forward to 2 AM the next morning and I called my urologist at home and was screaming for my wife to call 911. Yes, it seemed like a life threatening emergency to me.

Undeniably, sex is critically essential to happiness. However, in the scheme of prioritizing as a society, hunger, cancer and countless other ills must take precedent over (e)rectifying manhood. From 2006 through 2011 the federal Medicare program paid $172 million on 474,000 VES claims. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, from October 2009 through September of 2010 alone, 1,593,150 individuals experienced homelessness. Kind of pathetic.

I think when Americans say that want to stiffen our fiscal position, they aren't thinking that can be done by treating grandpa's flaccid penis. At the time I finished writing this article our national debt was at $17,277,857,649,891.30 trillion dollars. We all need to make sound choices from voting in the best candidates to not yanking a system that is inevitably going to shrink our economy. I'm going to do my part and start filling my "penis pump jar" with pennies now.