Painful Cuts: States Stop Medicaid Coverage of Circumcisions

Will save states some money, but procedure has political critics, too

By Greg Wilson
|  Friday, Jun 24, 2011  |  Updated 9:53 AM EDT
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It may be the money and it may be a growing debate on the merits of circumcision, but more and more states are no longer funding the procedure through Medicaid.

Colorado has become the 17th state to stop using the public health care coverage for the poor to fund circumcision of newborn boys. The state, which faces a $1 billion shortfall, will save a mere $200,000 a year by dropping the procedure.

"We were just looking at virtually every option and trying to decide what was absolutely urgent now," Republican Sen. Kent Lambert, a member of the budget-writing Joint Budget Committee, told The Associated Press. "I think 99 percent of it was completely economic."

But another consideration might be the increasing fire circumcision has come under. San Francisco has scheduled a vote in November on ending the practice. Critics of circumcision call it genital mutilation and a human rights violation.

"Paying someone to amputate a healthy functional body part from an unconsenting minor is not just a waste of taxpayer money — it's also a violation of human rights," said Matthew Hess, the president of the group behind the San Francisco proposal.

States that no longer pay for the procedure include Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Louisiana and South Carolina. Overall, about 75 percent of males born in the U.S. are circumcised. Proponents say it reduces the rates of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and also lower the rates of cervical cancer for men's sexual partners.

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