Government even overpays for erections

If you???re a sentient organism on planet earth, I probably don???t have to tell you that government at all levels largely consists of a bloated and profligate bureaucracy that wastefully spends way too much money, and that grossly overpays for goods and services when compared to the private sector. The latest such example of government overpayment is pathetic, but it also scores high on the funny meter, so much so that I had to write about it.

According to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, taxpayers shelled out nearly $175 million for so-called ???vacuum erection systems,??? or VES, from 2006 to 2011.

What is a VES?

The more common term for such a device is a ???penis pump,??? and according to the Inspector General???s report, the feds paid more than double the retail price for VES devices over the said period. The report found that Medicare prices paid for the penis pumps ???remain grossly excessive compared with the amounts that non-Medicare payers pay.???

So, just how many times did government pay for these costly erections?

According to the report, Medicare paid 473,620 VES claims during calendar years 2006 through 2011. That???s nearly half a million Americans running around with overpriced erections. That???s both a scary fiscal proposition as well as one hell of a funny image to contemplate (if only I were a political cartoonist?).

Now, all mirth and overpriced girth aside, the real lesson here is that government by its very nature distorts the market place. By inserting itself between the consumer and the supplier, costs will almost always be higher. Moreover, with a third party such as Medicare authorizing payment, you will get more demand for an item that may or may not be medically necessary.

Finally, I want to be clear that I have nothing against penis pumps. From what I know they are a legitimate treatment for impotence, and as such that???s why they are covered by Medicare. I also am a big advocate of a vibrant sexual life for all Americans, and impotence isn???t a laughing matter.

My objection here is that I don???t want government???s wasteful hand stroking demand for the devices, paying double the retail price, and wasting millions on overpriced erections. Sadly, the trend here with respect to all health care choices is toward greater and greater government involvement, especially now that the mother of all social programs, ObamaCare, has gone live.

What this means is that in addition to overpriced penis pumps, we better get ready for all sorts of overpriced medical apparatuses that will likely cause undue financial strain on the entire nation???and that???s definitely no laughing matter.

Jim Woods is Editor-at-Large of You can follow him on Twitter: @Woodsish.