City of Cincinnati Retirees Ask Judge to Preserve Coverage of Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

Eliminating coverage of drugs like Viagra would save the city roughly $425,000 a year. But retirees say it violates a 2015 deal meant to shore up the city's pension fund.

click to enlarge Cincinnati City Hall - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati City Hall

Retired City of Cincinnati employees have filed a motion asking a federal judge to block changes to their prescription plan that would eliminate coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for "lifestyle" purposes. 

In an effort to cut costs for the city's retirement system, Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney June 4 outlined a few changes to prescription drug plans for retirees. 

Under the changes mentioned in Duhaney's memo, city retirees would no longer have "lifestyle erectile dysfunction drugs" like Viagra covered under their prescription plans. The city axed the medication from active employees' prescription coverage last year, and the elimination from retirees' plans is expected to save the city $425,000 a year.

But attorney Peter O'Shea, who is representing city retirees, filed a motion with U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett June 14 asking the judge to block the changes. O'Shea wrote that Duhaney's proposal violates a 2015 agreement between the city and its retirees that diverted $200 million from the city's health care fund for retirees to the city's pension fund. The city promised not to make any reduction in retirees' health care benefits under that agreement.

Viagra costs an average of $15 a pill, though generic versions can cost a third of that. About 400 retirees used their plans to purchase the pills in 2017, according to the city. That year, those purchases cost the city's retirement plan $700,000.

Duhaney also suggested shifts to CVS prescription programs and formulas that active employees use. Taken together, the moves aim to save about $1.1 million and bring prescription plans for retirees into line with active employees. 

"The major cost driver for retiree healthcare is prescription drugs," Duhaney writes in the memo, noting that the suggestions align with "industry best practices." According to Duhaney, about half of the $34 million the city spends on retiree health care benefits goes to prescription drugs.

Retirees suffering from some specific medical conditions could still obtain erectile dysfunction drugs under the changes.

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