John Stossel

You know some people pay for sex. But did you know some people are having sex -- and you're paying?

 Government health insurance now includes trying to improve people's sex lives. I'm all for improving folks' sex lives, but with our tax money?

 Government insurance is the first problem. Insurance was designed to protect us from the unexpected: floods, fire, severe illness, catastrophes that cost more than most of us can pay.

 But today, people expect insurance to cover everything, even routine things like eyeglasses and dental treatment. This is a terrible idea. Insurance is a lousy way to pay for anything.

 Once some faceless stranger is paying for what you do, you don't have an incentive to control costs. On the contrary, you have an incentive to get as much as you can and leave the other person with the bill. Doctors also have an incentive to run up the bills. Patients rarely complain, but they might complain if the doctor skips a test. Insurance companies know this, of course; hence the torturous bureaucracy: the paperwork, the phone calls where you beg them to pay, the times they refuse to pay for what you thought was covered.

 I can't blame them. They're just trying to protect themselves from fraud and hoping to have enough money left over to stay in business.

 Government insurance is worse than private insurance. A private insurer has an incentive to cut costs; every dollar wasted comes out of profit or must be recovered by raising prices, which drives customers away. Government just raises taxes or increases debt.

 So when our bloated government picks up the tab for poor people's health costs, guess what it buys: Viagra! In 2004, Medicaid spent $38 million on drugs for erectile dysfunction.

 There was outrage recently when people learned the government health program was paying to give Viagra to sex offenders. When that hit the headlines, officials started cutting off subsidies for rapists' erections.

 But why should taxpayers have to buy Viagra for anyone?

 Because the Clinton administration told states they have to. Current federal officials have kept the policy. They wouldn't agree to a television interview about it, but they told us that the law requires that drugs approved by the FDA must be covered by Medicaid.

 Many doctors defend the policy. "Erectile dysfunction is not fun, it's a disease," Dr. Steven Lamb, who wrote a book about Viagra. "It needs to be treated. It needs to be paid for."

 I gave him a hard time about it: "Sex is a government entitlement now? . . . Do you ever think about budgeting? What the taxpayer pays?"

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate