Here’s how you shave some money off the $1.1 trillion budget: penis pumps

Don’t worry; the video is safe for work.

Between 2006 and 2011, the U.S. covered 474,000 claims for penis pumps. The total bill was $172 million (yes, that’s not a typo). If the government had simply paid the price that a regular consumer would pay for a penis pump (via Amazon, where I just completely ruined my own search history, it’s about $79 per), they could have saved $14.4 million per year — or about $86 million over the ’06-’11 period.

You read all that correctly: the U.S. government spent $86 million more than it needed to on penis pumps across a five-year span. Are you wondering how/why that happened? Got ya covered:

So why is Medicare getting fleeced? While HHS uses a competitive bidding process to get the best possible price on some medical devices, penis pumps aren’t one of them. Instead, Medicare pays for them using a set formula based on the historical prices, which presumably were much higher in the days before the little blue pill gave most patients a better option. The overpayment problem isn’t new, either. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed fixing it all the way back in 1999.

Some think tankers, as you’d expect, are up in arms:

“Considering the strain retiring baby boomers will soon be placing on Medicare’s budget, shouldn’t we be focusing this entitlement program on real, life-saving treatment and equipment to serve the health needs of seniors – instead of subsidizing penis pump purchases?” Ben Domenici of the Heartland Institute think tank said in an email statement.

“And to those seniors who really do want one,” added Domenech, “just buy it yourself – you don’t need to send the bill to your fellow Americans.”

The most depressing thing of all here? If you assume that student loan debt is one major issue in America today, the $86 million we just over-paid on penis pumps could be used to give $60,000 to 1,434 kids towards college (and not have ’em pay it back). You’d have to think it was enough to get some food-education courses going in the more rural and inner-city parts of America. It’s not enough to truly solve problems, but it’s enough to get us on our way towards solving ’em — and it’s certainly a bit more relevant than penis pumps being purchased above market.

Ted Bauer