Medicaid paying for Viagra for sex offenders in New York

According to an audit by the state's comptroller, a large number of convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York have been getting Viagra on Medicaid for the last five years.

The audits by comptroller Alan Hevesi's office showed that between January 2000 and March 2005, 198 sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions, and this included those convicted of crimes against children as young as 2 years old.

In a letter to Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hevesi has asked for immediate action to be taken to ensure that sex offenders do not receive erectile dysfunction medication paid for by taxpayers. Leavitt's office has yet to respond.

The problem, according to Hevesi, is the consequence of a 1998 directive from federal officials telling states that Medicaid prescription programs must include Viagra. His office discovered that the state was helping sex offenders pay for Viagra by checking Medicaid pharmacy expenditures against the state's sex offender registry.

New York's two senators have said the problem must be corrected.

Democrat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said the revelation was deeply disturbing and runs contrary to the purpose of Medicaid, which is to provide health care coverage for uninsured, low-income individuals. Clinton, has urged Leavitt to look into the matter, and said she would herself explore legislative options.

New York's other senator, Democrat Chuck Schumer, says he hopes the issue will be resolved without need for a bill, but is prepared to offer one if needed. Schumer says the HHS did not do this intentionally, and when the government pays for Viagra for sex offenders, it could well hurt many innocent people.

Hevesi spokesman David Neustadt says the New York auditors are reviewing whether other prescription drugs for sexual dysfunction are being reimbursed by Medicaid for convicted sex offenders.

The auditors did not review the situation on Viagra reimbursement by Medicaid in other states, have no indication that the policies are different elsewhere.

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