Lifestyle Medicine

A few months ago I made the devil's advocate case for Medicare paying for impotence drugs. I noted I was doing this in spite of obviously being opposed to Medicare in general. But now I think I've been convinced by our wise Congressmen, who are passing a bill to prohibit their coverage:

By a two-to-one margin, the House voted Friday to bar Medicaid and Medicare, the government insurance programs for the poor and elderly, from paying for Viagra and other medicines that treat sexual impotence in men.

Medicaid currently spends about $15 million a year on impotence drugs, proponents of the measure said. But they cited Congressional Budget Office projections saying the government would spend $2 billion over 10 years on impotence treatments once Medicare began offering prescription drug coverage in 2006.

"We provide drugs through Medicare and Medicaid that are lifesaving drugs; we don't pay for lifestyle drugs," said Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, the chief sponsor of the measure. (italics mine)

Of course the amendment only addresses these drugs by name, but maybe this will start a precedent where Medicare will ban payment for all lifestlye drugs, and lifestyle treatments for that matter. As I contended this week, a surprisingly small part of our health care expenditures actually go toward increasing life expectancy (or decreasing mortality). In essence, then, most of medicine in the United States is "lifestyle." I propose a law that Medicare will only pay for treatment sought that has a proven and unambiguous mortality benefit. No more treatment coverage for erectile dysfunction, no more for arthritis, no more for doctors visits for non-lethal diseases. The list goes on. If Medicare, the most expensive program around, can be effectively downsized by prohibiting "lifestyle medicine", which is to say most medicine, then our fiscal burden will have gotten a lot lighter.

Of course, what are the chances that it moves much further than the politically upopular ED drugs?

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So relieving pain (e.g., of

So relieving pain (e.g., of arthritis) is now just a "lifestyle choice"?

Pardon me, sir, but haven't

Pardon me, sir, but haven't you read the literature on ED. ED is often an early symptom of heart and other organ problems. And the treatment of ED is related to these other problems.

Viagra--I mean, Pfizer, as we speak, are studying other benefits of Viagra, particularly in pulmonary hypertension (usually a fatal disease in young children), heart disease, kidney problems leading to too much ammonia in the blood, etc.

ED IS a major health problem.