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Lawmakers Look to Penis Pumps to Offset Bill for Disabled (Updated)

Casey is a cosponsor of the bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:05 a.m. | Congress is looking to penis pumps to help pay for a bill that would establish tax-advantaged savings accounts for the disabled.  

The Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE Act, is set for a House vote today. It would help the disabled save money to help pay for education, health care, transportation, housing and other expenses.  

The $2 billion cost of the bill is offset with a variety of savings proposals, including preventing Medicare from paying for “vacuum erection systems,” also known as penis pumps, which would save about $450 million.  

Medicare covers the costs of penis pumps for seniors whose doctors verify they have an erectile dysfunction problem. “What this provision would do is it would prohibit Medicare … from paying for these vacuum erection systems, or penis pumps,” said Romina Boccia, a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation, which opposes the bill.  

The proposal comes after the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general released a report in December 2013 that found that Medicare paid “grossly excessive” prices for pumps compared to what non-Medicare recipients paid.  

Between 2006 and 2011, Medicare paid a total of $172.4 million in pump claims, and if Medicare patients had paid the same price as non-Medicare patients, the federal government would have saved about $14.4 million over the six-year period and Medicare beneficiaries would have saved $3.6 million a year, the report said.  

“So that’s been on Congress's radar for a while,” Boccia said.  

Other offsets include raising an excise tax for inland waterways and other miscellaneous items.  

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who is a cosponsor of the bill, said he hasn’t yet seen the offsets, which he said were added by the House.  

“All I know is that we are hoping that the House gets the ABLE Act over,” Casey said.  

He added that the accounts established by the bill — which were based on 529 education savings plans — are important and would give parents of disabled children peace of mind.  

“We think people with disabilities have a lot of ability and this is one thing to give them the tools they need,” Casey said.

Topics: budget heal