COLUMBUS, Ohio - State officials acknowledged Thursday that Ohio paid for Viagra and another drug to treat impotence for 13 convicted sex offenders in the last 14 months. The state discovered the issue after running a cross check of Ohio's 13,000-person sex offender registry with a database of Medicaid beneficiaries.
Ohio Medicaid will no longer supply erectile dysfunction drugs to sex offenders, said Jon Allen, spokesman for the state Department of Job and Family Services. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services clarified this week that states can cut sex offenders off from these drugs. The federal government even issued a warning that states could face sanctions if they don't. "We just don't feel that's appropriate," said Gary Karr, a spokesman for the federal agency.
Ohio spent $3,968 on impotence drugs for those 13 sex offenders. Their prescriptions will no longer be honored, and any future Medicaid claims for Viagra, Levitra and Cialis will be checked against the state's sex offender registry, Allen said. About 1.7 million Ohioans are enrolled in Medicaid, a state-federal program that provides health coverage for the poor and disabled. The federal Medicaid agency issued its directive on sex offenders after New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi announced Sunday that from 2000 through March, 198 rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra.
Elsewhere, Florida said its Medicaid program had paid $93,000 to provide Viagra to 218 sex offenders in that state over the last four years. Heather Herron Murphy, manager of the Columbus-based Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio, agreed with Ohio's decision to stop prescribing impotence drugs to sex offenders. But she warned against blowing the issue out of proportion. "Erectile dysfunction drugs aren't aphrodisiacs," she said. "It's important to recognize that if we're only talking about what Viagra does for a man, then we're not thinking about how sexual assault really works. It's not about sex, it's about one person utilizing his power and control over another person," Herron Murphy said.
Overall, Ohio Medicaid spent $455,447 last year on impotence drugs, covering 7,600 prescriptions for 1,441 men. Earlier this year, a group of Ohio lawmakers began a fight to end reimbursements for impotence drugs to all Medicaid recipients, saying taxpayer money would be better spent on dental care and other essential health services. House Republicans pulled state funding for the drugs from its proposed budget and the Senate version also calls for eliminating the funding.