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Decline in circumcisions costing health care system billions, study finds

Johns Hopkins researchers look at economic impact of male circumcision

August 20, 2012|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The Hopkins researchers hope to use their findings to support a push for more funding and acceptance of the procedure. The research dovetails with a push to encourage the federal Medicaid program to mandate payment for circumcision rather than leave it optional for states. They want private insurance to cover the procedure as well.

"I think all barriers for male circumcision should be removed," Tobian said.

Some doctors said more needs to be done to make people aware of the benefits of circumcision and that the Hopkins study could help.

Dr. Brad Lerner, chief medical officer at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, called the Hopkins study powerful.

He said he has seen infections in men who are uncircumcised and who may not clean under the folds of the skin well enough. Some men get conditions where the foreskin tightens or scars and won't move. Lerner has recommended circumcision in older patients who have health issues.

He agreed with the Hopkins researchers that states should fund circumcisions.

"If you have a population that takes care of themselves, that does perform excellent hygiene and performs safe sexual practices, they will have lower risk," Lerner said. "We're talking more about Medicaid population which may not be as health-conscious, and that is a concern."

Dr. Richard Colgan of the University of Maryland School of Medicine said he leaves the decision of circumcision up to the parents.

"Certainly, I don't think this is a slam-dunk, carte blanche to now strong-arm parents to get their children circumcised," said Colgan, an associate professor and a doctor in family medicine. "It is one of several pieces of information that can be used by families to make the decision that is right for them."

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

By The Numbers

•79 percent of U.S. males babies born were circumcised (1970s and 1980s)

•54.7 percent of U.S. male babies born were circumcised (2010)

•10 percent of European men circumcised

•18 states don't cover circumcisions under Medicaid

•$2 billion is how much uncircumcised males have cost American medical system

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