ALBANY, N.Y. — Scores of convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York have been getting Viagra paid by Medicaid for the last five years, the state’s comptroller said Sunday.
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. Those included crimes against children as young as 2 years old, he said.
Hevesi asked Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter Sunday to “take immediate action to ensure that sex offenders do not receive erectile dysfunction medication paid for by taxpayers.”
A call to Leavitt’s office was not immediately returned Sunday.
According to Hevesi, the problem is an unintended 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 said Sunday the problem should be corrected.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that it was “deeply disturbing and runs contrary to the purpose of Medicaid, which is to provide health care coverage for uninsured, low-income individuals.” Clinton, a Democrat, urged Leavitt to look into the matter, and said she would explore legislative options.
New York’s other senator, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said at a press conference in New York City that he hoped the issue could be resolved without a bill, but he’s prepared to offer one if needed.
“While I believe that HHS did not do this intentionally, when the government pays for Viagra for sex offenders, it could well hurt many innocent people,” he said.
New York auditors are reviewing whether other prescription drugs for sexual dysfunction are being reimbursed by Medicaid for convicted sex offenders, Hevesi spokesman David Neustadt said.
While the auditors didn’t review the situation on Viagra reimbursement by Medicaid in other states, he said they have no indication that the policies are different elsewhere.
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