The Howard Government in Australia appears to have dug in its heels over its plan to reduce its generous subsidies for IVF treatment in its budget later this month.The minister for health, Tony Abbott, and the treasurer, Peter Costello, have flagged a cap on the currently unlimited number of cycles which the government supports through Medicare. They want to reduce it to three a year for younger women and to three in total for women over 42. The government estimates that this will save $7 million a year.
The idea has been roundly criticised by the opposition, the IVF industry and the Australian Medical Association. AMA president Dr Bill Glasson said the treasurer was using “dodgy” statistics. “The problem with the advice provided by the [health] department is that it was based on the number of Medicare claims with no clinical basis on patient age profiles, success rates or individual patient treatment cycles,” he said.
However, the government’s controversial budget cut was supported by at least one women’s group. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Selena Ewing, of the Women’s Forum, argued that “while many believe women use IVF as a last resort, in fact women’s decisions are primarily informed by the clinics themselves. Women rely on IVF doctors to tell them about their body, their fertility, the options open to them, their chances of conceiving, and the risks involved. Many clinicians may no doubt want to help women achieve their dreams of a family, but it is naive to ignore the [financial] conflict of interest.”
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