Now that’s a baby bonus

Tassie clinic says bulk bill plan makes IVF more af­ford­able

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - ANNE MATHER

COU­PLES go­ing through the tra­di­tion­ally ex­pen­sive process of IVF have had their bills cut by thou­sands of dol­lars in Tas­ma­nia fol­low­ing the avail­abil­ity of bulk-billed fer­til­ity ser­vices.

Tas­ma­nian fer­til­ity spe­cial­ist Bill Watkins said he knew af­ford­abil­ity was of­ten an is­sue for peo­ple seek­ing IVF to be­come preg­nant.

“We un­der­stand that the cost of IVF treat­ment is a rea­son some cou­ples don’t seek treat­ment, par­tic­u­larly given that more than one treat­ment cy­cle is usu­ally re­quired in or­der to achieve a preg­nancy,” he said.

Dr Watkins said TasIVF had in­tro­duced bulk-billed IVF and FET (Frozen Em­bryo Trans­fer) cy­cles at both its Ho­bart and Launce­s­ton clin­ics by stream­lin­ing ser­vices.

Dr Watkins said the bulk­billed clin­ics could help cou­ples save up to $3000 per round of IVF, which would nor­mally be the out-of-pocket ex­pense for a range of lab­o­ra­tory ser­vices re­lated to em­bry­ol­ogy.

Dr Watkins said the clinic had just moved to a new pur­pose-built fa­cil­ity in Melville St, Ho­bart, mak­ing ef­fi­cien­cies pos­si­ble.

The bulk-bill clinic is at­tended by fer­til­ity clin­i­cians, so pa­tients may not see the same doc­tor through every stage of treat­ment.

“We hope that peo­ple who pre­vi­ously couldn’t af­ford IVF, or who had to stop IVF, will now be able to af­ford it,” Dr Watkins said.

El­i­gi­ble pa­tients will still have some out-of-pocket ex­penses, in­clud­ing day surgery fees, pathol­ogy tests and med­i­ca­tions. Those ex­penses range from about $600-$900.

Dr Watkins said more com- pli­cated cases of in­fer­til­ity would not be suited to the bulk-billed treat­ment model.

The bulk-billing will cover all lab­o­ra­tory costs – in­clud­ing fer­til­i­sa­tion, blas­to­cyst cul­ture and em­bryo trans­fer. Scan­ning costs and con­sul­ta­tions are also bulk billed.

In­fer­til­ity con­sumer advocate Caroline Lor­bach, au­thor of Ex­pe­ri­ence of Donor Con­cep­tion, said only a hand­ful of clin­ics around Aus­tralia bulk­billed IVF.

“It not only re­duces the cost for peo­ple but makes the costs more trans­par­ent as well,” she said.

She said af­ford­abil­ity was of­ten a bar­rier to such ser­vices.

“Years ago my hus­band and I were us­ing donor con­cep­tion – with­out IVF – and we had to stop treat­ment for a while to save up again to af­ford to con­tinue.”

Ms Lor­bach said she would also like to see more in­de­pen­dent coun­selling about fer­til­ity treat­ments so cou­ples did not feel pres­sured into taking up any ser­vices.

Dr Bill Watkins

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