The Australian federal government is planning to cut back on funding for IVF in its budget next month. It is considering placing a cap on the number of Medicare-funded IVF treatments to a maximum of three for women over 42 and three per year for women below that age. The average cost of a cycle of IVF in Australia is about $8000, of which about half is usually Government-funded. At the moment, there is no limit to the number of IVF cycles that a woman can receive.
Health Minister Tony Abbot has justified the proposals, saying that the Government could not afford to fund so many 'elective procedures'. He said that after Medicare's share of the costs of IVF rose by 25 per cent in 2004, there was a concern that some fertility doctors might be 'profiteering'.
The move has sparked opposition from liberals. Rhondda Vanzella, vice president of the New South Wales (NSW) Liberal Party said that the Government should not impose limits on fertility treatments. Nearly 100 members of the NSW Liberal Women's Council have voted unanimously to tell the federal government that the budget should not include limits on IVF funding. Decisions about IVF should 'be between a woman and her doctor, and the Government should not interfere', they said. In addition, Julia Gillard, the federal Shadow Health Minister, has launched a petition to protest about the proposed limits.
Peter Costello, Australia's chancellor, said that 'nobody's going to stop IVF treatment where it has a reasonable chance of success', but added, 'there's no point in giving treatments where there is a very very low chance of success'.