IVF patients eligible for $2000 rebate in new scheme

The state government will offer people undergoing costly IVF treatment a $2000 rebate,which could reduce out-of-pocket costs for some private patients to virtually zero.

From January 1,patients at private clinics who have undergone IVF or other assisted reproductive treatments since October will be able to submit a claim for the rebate,which is the first of its kind in Australia.

Treasurer Matt Kean speaks with new mother Natascha Flowers at the Royal Hospital for Women on Sunday.

Treasurer Matt Kean speaks with new mother Natascha Flowers at the Royal Hospital for Women on Sunday.Edwina Pickles

The rebate will be available to 12,000 patients,each able to claim up to $2000 depending on the cost of their eligible procedure. Procedures must be done at accredited clinics.

“No-one should have to face the impossible choice between looking after their household budget and starting a family,” Treasurer Matt Kean said,describing the cost of IVF as “prohibitively expensive”.

After 12,000 patients have taken up the cashback offer,Treasury will undertake an evaluation of private clinic fees – to check they have “remained low and competitive” – before an extension of the scheme is considered.

The new scheme is part of an $80 million package to increase access to fertility services in the state.

Other measures include five days of paid fertility treatment leave for public service employees,as well as 6000 additional publicly supported places at NSW Health’s affordable IVF clinics at Sydney’s Royal Hospital for Women,Royal Prince Alfred and Westmead hospitals.

A “hub and spoke” model to bring publicly supported IVF services to regional areas is also being funded.

The existing pre-IVF fertility testing rebate – which had allowed patients to claim up to $500 in out-of-pocket expenses incurred during anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) tests,pelvic ultrasounds,ovulation tests and semen analysis – will be halved to $250 after too few claims were made for the higher amount.

Aboutone in 20 births in Australia involve some form of assisted reproductive technology,data from UNSW’s National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit published last year showed.

In 2019,there were 15.6 IVF cycles per 1000 Australian women aged under 45,a 6 per cent increase on 2018 figures.

Of the initiated cycles,23.2 per cent (20,668) resulted in a clinical pregnancy and 18.3 per cent (16,310) led to a live birth.

The average age of women undergoing autologous cycles – using their own embryos – in 2019 was 35.8 years. The average age of women using donor oocytes or embryos was 40.2 years.

Professor Luk Rombauts,president of the Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand,which was consulted on the new rebate,said several factors – including the use of donation services – affected the cost of IVF.

An average initial cycle in a private clinic can cost up to $10,000.

With the new rebate and private health insurance,Rombauts said for some patients the cost “may be reduced to virtually nothing”,noting the society had lobbied for the rebate to encompass fertility treatment other than IVF.

“Otherwise,you effectively provide an incentive to do IVF when someone doesn’t need it,” he said.

Rombauts said the society would be keen to work with other state governments to set up similar schemes if NSW’s works well. He said the growing number of children being born following fertility treatment indicated a need for governments to improve equity of access.

“It is not just the right social thing to do,there’s also a strong economic argument,” he said.

The NSW state budget will be delivered on June 21.

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Mary Ward is a health reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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