Public Policy professor emeritus Arleen Leibowitz has co-authored an editorial in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine advocating that all state Medicaid plans should cover infant male circumcision.
The editorial accompanies a new study showing that declining rates of male circumcision in the U.S. have led to increased public spending on the treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that a decline in infant male circumcision from 79 percent in the 1970s to 55 percent today is responsible for roughly $2 billion in increased public health spending over that time period.
Leibowitz and her co-author, Katherine Desmond of the UCLA Center for HIV Identification, Prevention and Treatment Services, attribute the decline in large part to patients' willingness to pay. "Low-income families' decisions to circumcise their newborn boys are quite responsive to whether or not Medicaid pays for the procedure," they write.
Medicaid funds in 18 states currently do not cover infant circumcision as a matter of routine. Leibowitz and Desmond argue that the relatively low cost of circumcision -- $254 on average -- ought to be seen as a wise investment in long-term health when compared to the estimated $407 in additional medical costs the average non-circumcised male will incur.
Moreover, the editorial states, the populations covered by Medicaid are those most likely to be at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. "In this way, state policies are building in future health disparities that these disadvantaged children will face as adults," Leibowitz and Desmond write.
The study and editorial have been featured in media outlets including ABC News, the Los Angeles Times, Nature and NPR.