EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network http://www.europrofem.org
The cost of Viagra
BY PAMELA WHITE
If ever there were an example of male bias in the medical-industrial complex it is this: Hard-ons have been declared a medical necessity, while pregnancy prevention has not.
Many health insurance companies are covering the cost of Viagra, a drug that helps impotent men have erections, while refusing to cover prescription contraceptives. Erections are essential, they argue, but using contraception is a personal choice.
Truly a male perspective.
While the inability to have an erection can ruin your night, one unplanned pregnancy can ruin your life. A flaccid penis doesn't have the ability to disable or kill the man it's dangling from. It won't require him to take time off from work or land him on welfare. It won't make his back ache, give him stretch marks, or put him through 20 hours of wrenching contractions. He won't have to get up at night to feed it, or buy it clothes or pay its way through college.
Pregnancy, while not a disease, brings with it a host of risks ranging from nausea and urinary incontinence to paralysis and death. Impotence, though often the result of poor physical or mental health, doesn't put a man's body or life at risk. Clearly, the decision not to cover contraception isn't based on medical fact. Just ask the doctors of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who have declared that contraception is an absolute must for women of child-bearing age.
It seems impossible that insurance companies could hope to gain monetarily from refusing to cover prescription contraceptives. One pregnancy and birth costs as much as nine years of oral contraceptives. A Caesarean delivery might run as much as 25 years worth of the pill. Hardly a cost-saving approach.
Consider the fact that the cost of one month's supply of Viagra -- eight pills, each producing one erection, for about $10 each -- is more expensive than contraception at about $20 to $30 a month. Or the fact that Viagra will actually help increase the number of pregnancies. Or the fact that unplanned pregnancies come at a high cost to society -- poverty, child abuse, crime -- while impotence does not (OK, maybe grouchy bankers), and you have something that adds up to a lot of dollars and not much sense.
So what's the deal?
Seems to me it's part of the same double standard that perceives sexually active men as healthy and strong but sexually active women as a social problem. Viagra opens a door for men to more and better sex. Contraception does the same for women by eliminating the worries of pregnancy. And while it's great that they've found a way to help men cope with the very real personal grief of impotence, fair is fair. Cover neither, or cover both.
Yet Congress might just do that, as it reluctantly considers legislation that would require insurance companies that cover prescriptions to cover contraceptives. But that august body, made up mostly of men, seems poised to cave into business lobbyists and religious groups.
The business lobbyists evidently can't do simple math and argue that covering contraception will drive up the cost of medical care for everyone. They should borrow my calculator.
The religious groups, always predictable, believe that women should abstain from sex when fertile to prevent pregnancy. While that approach might be fine for church ladies and gamblers, some of us prefer a more fail-proof method. Unfortunately, religious fundamentalists seems intent on forcing the rest of us to live our lives their way, abusing the notion of liberty. Fortunately, however, they are a fringe group, and like a bunch of barking poodles, their lobbyists should be ignored.
Where does this leave us? If you're rich, consider buying a congressman.
They're available to the highest bidder. If you're not, put in a call to your congressional representatives and demand that the Snowe-Greenwood Equity in Prescriptions Act be passed. Otherwise, insurance bigwigs will get away with putting their money only where they wish your mouths were.