Erectile distribution

Barbara Boxer recently made headlines comparing abortion coverage to Viagra:

The men who have brought us this don’t single out a procedure that’s used by a man, or a drug that is used by a man, that involves his reproductive health care and say they have to get a special rider. There’s nothing in this amendment that says if a man some days wants to buy Viagra, for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider. I wouldn’t support that.

It’s true that abortions are things women get and erectile dysfunction drugs are things men get, and both are part of the broad sweep of reproductive healthcare, but some people don’t see the parallel.

From an inequality perspective, treating erectile dysfunction is not simple. On the one hand, it is a condition that affects older men more – 44% of men in their 60s, 70% of those age 70+. And Medicare part D doesn’t cover E.D. drugs. With Viagra costing about $15 per pill, or about $7 for the co-payment when it’s covered by private insurance – and grossing almost $2 billion last year – health care reform stands to increase access to E.D. drugs and massive profits for pharmaceutical makers.

But is covering E.D. just a boondoggle to cater to the older consumer and generate profits for the rich?

A study based on the 2001-02 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that E.D. is associated with behavioral issues such as smoking and exercise, as well as obesity, heart disease, and prostate conditions. But it’s also more prevalent (controlling for age) among Black men and those who didn’t finish high school. So health care reform could help level the erectile distribution as well.

It might not be the same issue as providing access to abortions, but is it on the same level as Botox?

2 thoughts on “Erectile distribution

  1. Boxer asks provocative questions. Given that a certain set of pregnancy terminations constitute legal medical treatments, where’s the logic in excluding those treatments (specific to women’s reproductive health) while not excluding legalized treatments pertaining to men’s reproductive health? It’s amazing to read the vitriol and knee-jerk hatred her questions have generated in the media, but not a reasoned discussion about this. Obviously there is a segment of Americans opposed to legal access to abortions. Yet in the absence of criminalizing abortions, what can be the legal justification for any government-derived plan to not cover this aspect of women’s health care?


  2. I agree. It’s a great lesson for anyone who’s pro-choice and thought Roe v. Wade settled the issue. Abortion survives in a special status: Not quite illegal but definitely wrong. That’s the only way it can be justified as an exclude-able procedure like this.


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