New lim­its may be set on IVF sub­sidy

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - LINDA SILMALIS

WOMEN strug­gling to have a baby could have a lim­ited num­ber of pub­licly funded IVF rounds — and an up­per age limit of 43 — un­der op­tions pro­posed by a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment task­force.

The Medi­care Ben­e­fits Sched­ule Re­view Task­force is ex­plor­ing the changes as it looks for ways to rein in mil­lions of dol­lars of re­bates given for health treat­ments.

The re­view, which be­gan two years ago, is ex­am­in­ing 14 IVF treat­ments among more than 5700 items on the Medi­care Sched­ule to align them “with con­tem­po­rary clin­i­cal ev­i­dence” in or­der to “im­prove health out­comes” for pa­tients.

The av­er­age tax­payer con­tri­bu­tion for an IVF baby for a woman over 35 is about $20,000, com­pared with less than $10,000 for younger women. Gov­ern­ment fig­ures show IVF treat­ments were ac­cessed more than 273,000 times last year.

A task­force source has ex­pressed con­cern the Gov­ern­ment is on a “go-slow” on de­cid­ing which re­bates to act on in the lead-up to an elec­tion.

Fer­til­ity So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia IVF Di­rec­tors Group chief David Mol­loy said over the life of an IVF baby, the amount they would pay in tax would far out­weigh the orig­i­nal cost to Medi­care.

Ad­vances meant the suc­cess of IVF in women over 40 had im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly, with one in four de­liv­er­ing a baby af­ter only three em­bryo trans­fers.

“There are now a sub­stan­tial num­ber of preg­nan­cies oc­cur­ring in women up to 45 — the suc­cess rates in women over 40 are much bet­ter than they used to be,” he said.

“Cher­ryp­ick­ing pa­tients de­feats the whole pur­pose of IVF, which is to treat pa­tients who are gen­uinely find­ing it dif­fi­cult to get preg­nant.

“In some cases, it will take six to eight episodes to get their baby, but if you keep per- sist­ing with those pa­tients you will get a baby.”

While many MBS items had not been re­viewed for decades, IVF had had re­peated re­views, the lat­est five years ago, he said.

Un­til 1999, sub­sidised IVF was lim­ited to six cy­cles.

Fer­til­ity So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia pres­i­dent Michael Chap­man said “in terms of cost, an IVF baby more than pays for it­self”.

The task­force’s gy­nae­col­ogy clin­i­cal sub­com­mit­tee has met four times, but a gov­ern­ment source said it had yet to draft rec­om­men­da­tions.

A spokesman for Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt said the Gov­ern­ment would lis­ten to the views of the ex­perts.

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