Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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.

For the time being, such performance-enabling drugs are not covered under Medicare.

“Cialis, Viagra, Levitra and other erectile dysfunction drugs are not considered necessary by the U.S. Department of Health and 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.

“As the chronic conditions that contribute to ED have risen, it’s not surprising that utilization of these devices would rise as well,” says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in an official statement emailed to me Monday. “CMS will not invade the doctor-patient relationship and refuse to pay for devices that a doctor says are ‘medically necessary.’ We are actively looking into what extent any increased utilization is the product of fraud.”

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.

Unless, apparently, you cheat and lie in concert with your doctor.

A few years ago, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, made it clear he likes the “no” 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 clearly more learned in sexual science and related matters 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-sex 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.

“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.”

One of his friends strongly disagreed. He preferred Beach Girls 91. “Hey, that’s a great place. I took my son there for his birthday.”

The next day I played a run-down 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 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.