The president of the Fertility Society of Australia, a leading body in the country’s IVF industry, has called for restrictions to Medicare access for women over 45 undergoing fertility treatment.
Why? It’s all about “value for money.”
Professor Michael Chapman, fertility specialist and the president of Fertility Society of Australia, says there is little tax payer value in subsidising the treatment for women over 45. Currently, there is no age limit on accessing Medicare for IVF.
His recommendations come after statistics, released on Friday, showed the fertility treatment outcomes from 2014 – the most recent year for which data is available.
The numbers, Chapman says, don’t add up.
Of 73,598 women who started IVF cycles in 2014, only 19.8 per cent delivered a baby – a 10 per cent improvement from five years earlier.
For women aged 40-44 who received fertility treatment in 2014, the success rate dropped to 6 per cent.
For women aged over 45, the success rate dropped again. To less than one per cent.
It’s certainly a tough concept to put a price on, but Chapman said the cost of a baby per age group can also be broken down by analysing the data.
By adding together the costs of IVF treatments for women aged 40-44, then dividing this number by the number of babies born, you can see that it cost $100,000 per baby for women aged 40-44 in 2014.
For women aged 30, the average cost per baby was $28,000. For women over 45, it rose to $200,000 per baby.
“Is that value for money? That’s a question the taxpayer has to answer,” Chapman told The Sydney Morning Herald. “In healthcare you do spend a lot of money on fairly significant treatments like cancer for outcomes that are likely to be very poor, so it’s a hard trade off and I think for the individual couple who are desperate to have a baby, it’s worthwhile, but I think over 45 you have to think seriously about whether Medicare should cover them.”
In 2014, 74 women aged 40-44 completed 10 cycles of IVF. Just three of them delivered a live baby and more than 70 per cent of them went on to have additional cycles in the following year.
These women don’t want to give up, and their need is perfectly understandable. But the question is should tax payers be funding it?
“These are desperate women,” Professor Chapman says. “I say, ‘You would need a miracle,’ and they say, ‘I want to keep trying’.”