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5/24/2005

I must beg to differ

Presumably you've heard about the recent realization that sex offenders have been getting their Viagra covered by Medicaid. Not suprisingly, quite a bit of outrage followed this revelation, from both the left and the right, interestingly. Lindsay Beyerstein, however, has a different take; she doesn't see a problem with it. I think she's mistaken on several key points, though.
I'm getting sick of the manufactured outrage over the fact that New York's Medicaid program pays for Viagra for sex offenders. People are talking about the Viagra for sex offenders "scandal" as if felons were exploiting some kind of loophole. In fact, they're just using the same medical services that everyone is entitled to.
I don't think that all of the outrage is 'manufactured'--though surely some of it is. But public subsidizing of sex drugs for known perverts is something that could easily produce genuine outrage.
Medicaid covers Viagra for anyone for whom it is medically indicated. You don't have to undergo a criminal record check to get any other kind of medical treatment. Pickpockets can be treated for carpal tunnel, peeping toms for ADD, and embezzelers for dyslexia--and that's exactly how it should be.

... Medicaid is not an arm of the parole system. Prescriptions shouldn't be rationed in the name of social engineering. It sounds as if Health and Human Services might even revoke Viagra coverage for sex offenders who have already served their time. This is unconscionable. It's not up to HHS to heap extrajudicial punishments on people who've already paid their debt to society....
I don't see any reason why this is 'exactly as it should be'. These are criminals, after all, and as such they are subject to punishment. If we can deny them their freedom for years at a time by sentencing them to prison, is it so unreasonable to deny certain criminals access to medication that is not medically necessary and that could aid them in committing their crimes?

Now, she's got a point that this might not be the proper domain of HHS. But that's an ancillary issue; the question is whether or not convicted sex offenders should get Viagra; if ending this practice requires a law passed by the federal or state legislatures, then so be it.
We can debate whether Viagra and other ED meds should be on a public insurance formulary, but the sex offender issue is a total red herring. The unsubstantiated implication is that Viagra is facilitating rapes. That might be true, but then again, so might angina medication, antibiotics, or any other medical treatment for a sex offender who would otherwise be out of commission.
The implication might be 'unsubstantiated' in the sense that it hasn't been proven (perhaps because it hasn't been studied) but it's certainly not an unreasonable induction. These are sex offenders, and Viagra is a drug used to facilitate sexual activity--as opposed to antibiotics, etc., all of which are (often) necessary for one's continued overall health.

Though he agrees with Lindsay, Kevin Drum notes another good reason for opposing the practice:
Lindsay is plainly right on the merits, but once again conservatives have managed to dredge up a bizarre non-issue designed to make anyone with any sense look like a moral pervert. You either vote to ban Viagra for these people or else you're aiding and abetting child abuse. And there isn't a local news station in the country that can resist running with this story.
Yup. Mark Noonan made a similar point in a different context. Speaking of a little girl who was supposedly prohibited from singing a religious song at a school event, Mark said:
Hey, Democrats, do you want to know why we keep winning? Because in the great political game of the United States, we're always coming down loudly on the side of this little girl.
Now, Mark apparently is proud of his party's ability to make political mountains out of molehills, but his point is correct nonetheless. Like it or not, this is the kind of shit that makes the news, and conservatives have used this to their advantage to an enormous extent.

There's basically nothing to be gained from coming out against a ban on giving Viagra to sex offenders. It will only serve to make the Left look like it is taking the side of sick perverts. Plus, I don't really care whether the rights of these 'people' are being 'violated' or not if they can't get their Viagra. Frankly, they're lucky to be out of prison at all; the sentences for sex crimes are ridiculously lenient. So fuck 'em, basically; when it comes down to it, they don't deserve anything but scorn, and they certainly don't deserve to have their perversions subsidized by the government.


UPDATE: Other bloggers weigh in: Typical Joe agrees with Lindsay and Kevin, while Outside the Beltway says that Medicaid is already rationing drugs for the sake of social engineering, and makes the following analogy:
Personally I think we need to remove all laws prohibiting violent criminals from owning firearms. After all the Constitution does say that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, and it is unconcionable to prevent felons who have already served their time from being able to defend themselves.

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