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Political Mercury

March 15, 2012
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Why Medicare Viagra ban is ruining America’s public golf courses

By Douglas Burns

In a crammed catalog of things I know happen but just don’t want to think about — in a kind of running and screaming and kicking way — the human enterprise I’d most like to avoid considering, the clear topper in a Canadian football-sized field of contenders, is old people having sex.

I think I probably have more than a little company with this point of view. And it does intersect with contemporary American politics. In summary, many people don’t like the idea of old men getting lucky, presumably with old women and even their wives — at least if it’s funded through Medicare.

As it stands. Ahem, let’s rephrase that. For the time being, such performance-enabling drugs, launching fuel for geezer geysers, if you will, are not covered under Medicare.

“Cialis, Viagra, Levitra and other erectile dysfunction drugs are not considered necessary by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,” The Los Angeles Times reports. “Apparently many men disagree. Hence the $3.1 million charged to Medicare Part D for the drugs in 2007 and 2008.” Some reports suggest that Medicare will cover Viagra for non-sexual reasons — giving a new twist to the concept of side effects.

It’s all sort of confusing, so I called the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services in Washington, D.C. and got a straightforward answer from spokesman Tony Salters.

Can old men get Viagra through Medicare?

“No,” Salters said.

A few years ago, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, made it clear he likes that answer and wants Medicare to keep its government hands off Viagra. As Roll Call, the newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, put it: King expects Grandpa to “pay for play.”

“Is it the government’s business to provide those funds and resources so that old men can have sex when they want?” King is quoted as saying in Roll Call. “We’ve gotten along just fine without the government subsidizing people’s sex lives. This kind of growth in government was never envisioned by our Founding Fathers.”

Of course, the life expectancy in 1776 was only 35.

In theory what King is advocating makes sense.

The only societal interest in sex is in the furtherance of life, according to Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum who is apparently more learned in sex than Alfred Kinsey. Once people figure out they are gay, or reach a certain age as heterosexuals, there really is no need for them to have sex.

Besides, this whole business of old men, flush with cash and red-faced with drug-induced passion, running around landing younger ladies has created a cottage industry for gold-digging types, and allowed Hugh Hefner to further infuriate the 150 million-plus American males who aren’t him. Someone once asked Hefner, the Playboy founder and prodigious womanizer, the best pick-up line he’s ever heard. “Hi, my name is Hugh Hefner,” the senior citizen magazine mogul responded.

But the real problem with the denial of Viagra and other drugs like it to Medicare recipients for pleasure purposes is that such a policy will flat-out ruin municipal golf courses across the nation, make them into snake pits of working-class resentment.

The distinctions between rich and poor are many and varied.

At the end of the day, though, it boils down to this: The chief difference in America between rich old men and poor old men is that the more well-to-do play golf at country clubs, whereas the blue-collar schleps and retired desk jockeys go to the municipal golf courses, where, in most of the nation, it takes six hours to play 18 holes, the beer is warm and flat, and the greens are about as fair and true as Haitian elections.

Case in point: At a world-class golf course outside of Tampa Bay, I pulled a 7-iron long and left of the green on No. 11, placing me near the tee blocks for the next hole, where four men of Medicare age were having a spirited discussion about the merits and shortcomings of Florida’s strip clubs. Tampa Bay is known for being to strip club connoisseurs what Salt Lake City is for Mormons. Hallowed ground.

“No, no Beach Girls 82 is far better than Beach Girls 91,” said one of the golfers in making the case for their post-18th hole schedule. “The drinks are cheaper at that strip club, and they aren’t so strict on the touching thing. You can really get in there with a feel. And make sure you wear loose slacks, not jeans, so you get the most out of the rub factor.”

One of his friends strongly disagreed. He preferred Beach Girls 91, “Hey, that’s a great place. I took my son there to get him his first professional blow job.” (The use of the term “first” had me howling for the next three holes because it presumes subsequent paid activities of said variety).

The next day I played a scuzzy Florida muni course in the morning where sexual bravado went out about the time Castro grabbed Cuba. No, instead, at the muni, the conversations among the older set in the clubhouse revolved around bad knees and bladder issues.

To sum it up, Senior Citizen Muni Golf Guy makes up the most peeved-off demographic in America. He’s always there in that unraked bunker, the one with the exposed Glad-bag foundation, thinking about the rich country clubbers and their smooth sand and top-shelf Scotch.

If Muni Guy knows that Club Guy is getting as much Viagra as a wrinkled hand can hold, while Medicare leaves out the blue love pills, the revolution will start one 9-iron through one Mercedes window at a time. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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