New York Ends Viagra Subsidies to Stop Sex Offenders

New York governor George Pataki has ended state reimbursal for Viagra in order to ensure that sex offenders don’t get the drug.

Viagra reimbursements ended in move to prevent sex offender access (Albany Business Review)

Gov. George Pataki has directed the New York state Department of Health and state Insurance Department to stop all reimbursement through public health programs for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. In the meantime, Pataki said he will propose legislation banning sex offenders from receiving the drugs through Medicaid or other programs that receive taxpayer dollars. Pataki said a bill has to be approved before officials at the state Health and Insurance departments have access to all the names on the state’s registry of sex offenders. Currently, access is available for Level 3 offenders, the most serious in the state’s three-tier risk-assessment system.

Earlier this week, the federal Health and Human Services agency said it would reverse a 1998 policy that allowed Medicaid reimbursement for erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. On Wednesday, the Democratic speaker of the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver, blamed the Republican governor’s Department of Health for allowing sex offenders to get Viagra through the Medicaid program. “The absolutely abhorrent practice of providing sexual offenders with taxpayer-funded sexual performance-enhancing drugs and procedures must stop immediately,” Silver said. He said the Assembly would review Pataki’s proposed legislation and move quickly to pass a bill preventing sex offenders from getting inappropriate drugs.

This has to be the dumbest way to solve an incredibly minor problem. Whether states should subsidize medication for erectile dysfunction to begin with is an interesting question but not really at issue here. To stop doing so for the sole purpose of ensuring that sex offenders don’t get it is asinine.

For one thing, those who are willing to commit the most heinous of crimes are surely willing to steal either the drugs or the money to buy the drugs. For another, the percentage of those getting subsidized Viagra who are sex offenders–or for that matter, the percentage of sex offenders fueled by subsidized Viagra–has to be exceedingly small.

This makes as much sense as banning guns in order to cut down on murders or banning candy machines in schools so that kids don’t get fat. Of course, we do those things, too.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Atm says:

    Hmm, maybe the state is trying to save money, and using this as an excuse to not pay for Viagra. The senior citizen/erectile dysfunction lobby may be too hard to take on directly.

    I personally believe that lifestyle drugs like this should not be paid for by any government agency, or any insurance plan for that matter.