Virginia is for Viagra 

Under the state's newly minted budget, Virginia will continue to cover treatments for erectile dysfunction in its employee health insurance program.

New budget will continue to cover treatments for erectile dysfunction

Great news for Virginia's aging government workers: Lawmakers have found money for the little blue pill.

Under the state's newly minted budget, Virginia will continue to cover treatments for erectile dysfunction in its employee health insurance program.

Outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine proposed in December to make state workers pay out of pocket for Viagra and its pharmaceutical cousins. But the legislature nixed that proposal during the subsequent months of budget wrangling.

Virginia is not alone; the Maryland and District governments also subsidize coverage of drugs such as Viagra for their employees. A D.C. spokesman would offer no other details Tuesday. Maryland began providing coverage for erectile dysfunction in 2005, said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"It's not an unlimited supply," he said. State workers can receive a maximum of 18 pills per 90 days.

The Old Dominion -- which also limits prescription amounts -- has covered Viagra "since it came out" more than a decade ago, said Sara Wilson, director of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management. Though Viagra was initially very popular, she said, Virginia employees' demand for the drug has diminished since it went on the market.

 

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by: ¥ High blood pressure or high cholesterol ¥ Drinking and drug use ¥ Diabetes ¥ Prescription drug side effects ¥ An unhealthy lifestyle ¥ Nerve damage Source: National Institutes of Health

So far, no Virginia lawmaker has come forward to claim credit for helping restore the funds for erectile dysfunction drugs. In fact, most didn't return phone calls on the issue Tuesday.

 

The question of whether "lifestyle" drugs should receive a public subsidy is particularly sensitive just days after the General Assembly closed a more than $4 billion shortfall in its two-year budget chiefly through major cuts to K-12 education and health care.

Del. Bob Marshall, the most outspoken social conservative in the House of Delegates, said he was surprised when he heard in a caucus meeting the item had been resurrected.

"I see no reason why that was included," said Marshall, R-Manassas. "If people want this, they can pay for these drugs themselves. I don't think it's something the Virginia taxpayers should be paying for, period."

At the beginning of the budget process, Kaine -- with only weeks left in his term -- submitted a spending proposal that cut out coverage for nonsedating antihistamines and ED drugs. Those cuts, coupled with the creation of a "90-day maintenance drug network," would have saved more than $3 million a year.

The House and Senate agreed to a near-final budget that explicitly reinstates both types of medications. Gob. Bob McDonnell still must sign the document.

wflook@washingtonexaminer.com

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William C. Flook

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