The Irish government has said that it will dedicate funding to couples needing IVF and assisted reproduction treatments.
The announcement, by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, came as he admitted that planned legislation around assisted reproduction would take longer than planned. The Assisted Reproduction Bill, previously debated in 2018 (see BioNews 934) is now unlikely to be passed in 2019 as the government has other priorities, including implementing abortion legislation following the 2018 referendum and Brexit.
However, Varadkar said that this should not delay the funding being made available: 'You don’t necessarily need the legislation to be passed because the treatment is available in Ireland, it is not illegal, so it will be funded.'
IVF is available in Ireland, but at present people who have difficulty conceiving must pay for treatment privately. This can be very expensive; even though they can offset 20 percent of the cost against tax and the cost of drugs is capped, couples can still expect to pay thousands of euros. The planned financial assistance will be means-tested and couples will be expected to contribute to the cost. There will also be certain as-yet unspecified criteria to be met in order to qualify for funding.
'Couples who need IVF or [assisted reproduction] do face very high costs. We would like to assist them in some way and we set aside some money to do that,' Varadkar said.
Varadkar explained 'Obviously, you are going to prioritise somebody who has no children over somebody who already has children, and you are going to prioritise maybe younger women who for medical reasons can’t conceive as opposed to somebody who is in their 50s and 60s who wants to have a child, so there will have to be criteria and there will still be an out of pocket contribution, but we have set aside some funding next year to get that started.'
Approximately one in four couples in Ireland experience fertility difficulties, according to the Belfast Telegraph.