Medicare payments for penis pumps have skyrocketed by 500% over the last decade, going from $7.2 million in 2000 to over $36 million in 2011, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been busy looking into allegations of fraud.

Although erectile dysfunction is a common problem in older men, Medicare stopped paying for Viagra and similar drugs in 2007 because they were so widely used that they came to be seen as "lifestyle" drugs rather than medically necessary. Around the same time, Medicare claims for the pumps, which are still covered, began rising steadily, and with them the potential for fraud.

Over the past four years, investigators have found more than $8 million in questionable payments. Perhaps the most egregious case involved a supplier who "bought cheap sex-toy grade penis pumps from online dealers and reshipped them to Medicare patients who never asked for them, then billed Medicare at a markup rate nearly 11 times greater than what he first paid."

That supplier, Gary Winner, was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison earlier this year. He was also ordered to reimburse Medicare more than $2.2 million, covering both the penis pump scam and another scam involving arthritis products provided through an illegal telemarketing scheme.

Photo by ebel via Flickr