New limits may be set on IVF subsidy
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.