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Bill May End Federal Subsidies for Viagra

Money for impotence drugs would be diverted to hurricane victims and the poor under legislation awaiting Bush's signature.

October 20, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Viagra users will have to give up their federal subsidies under legislation that aims to spend the money instead on the poor and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The bill, approved by the Senate on Wednesday by voice vote and sent to the president for his signature, ends federal Medicaid payments for erectile dysfunction drugs as of Jan. 1. Medicare payments for such drugs would be terminated on Jan. 1, 2007.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), who sponsored the original House bill, said the government could save $690 million over five years by eliminating federal support under the two government healthcare programs for sexual performance drugs.

The savings will allow the government to extend for two years the qualified-individual program that helps low-income families with their Medicare Part B premiums. It extends for three months a temporary medical assistance program that helps families make the transition from welfare to work.

Deal said the legislation would also provide $500 million in federal unemployment funds to hurricane-affected states to help them pay benefits to outof-work people: $400 million to Louisiana, $85 million to Mississippi and $15 million to Alabama.

Under Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, states will still be allowed to subsidize Viagra and other impotence drugs if they determine such drugs are medically necessary. But they will no longer receive federal matching grants.

Congress has tried several times in recent years to end federal subsidies for erectile dysfunction drugs, but this is the first to clear both chambers and be sent to the president.

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