Abbott backtracks on plans to slash IVF funding

Community outrage stumps Abbott’s ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ plans for IVF funding.

An outpouring of community outrage forced the Government to resist slashing Medicare funding for IVF treatment in the Budget announced on 11 May. Instead, the government announced a review into the effectiveness of reproductive technologies.

In April, Health Minister Tony Abbott had announced the federal government’s intention to cut Medicare funding of IVF treatment in the forthcoming budget.

Abbott’s plans would have limited couples to three Medicare-subsidised treatments per year, while women over 42 will be entitled to just three treatments in total.

After that couples would have had to pay $4,500 out of their own pocket if they need more than three treatments in a year, said Sandra Dill, of the IVF support group Access.

The government argued the cutback would have saved $7 million next year. By comparison, the baby bonus is expected to cost more than $260 million.

‘I think Australian women are pretty sceptical about Minister Abbott and his agenda of imposing his values on them when it comes to fertility,’ commented Labor’s health spokesperson, Julia Gillard.

Dr Richard Denniss, health researcher for independent think tank, the Australia Institute, said: ‘Abbott picked on a highly emotive and personally sensitive medical intervention to save a trivial amount of money.

‘Instead of this selective approach we should have an honest public discussion about what we expect from Medicare, about the sorts of things Medicare will and won’t cover, to develop some sound general principles about funding,’ Dr Denniss told The Lamp.

He was supported by the Dean of Medicine at Sydney University, Stephen Leeder, who called for a debate about Medicare funding guidelines generally.

‘To single out a particular intervention and say we’re not going to fund this one is politicising an issue that does not deserve to be politicised,’ Professor Leeder said.