Free IVF for Couples Struggling to Conceive

By Joanne Delaney

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In October 2017, the Government approved the drafting of a Bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated areas of research, based on the published General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.  The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health is currently conducting a review of the General Scheme as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January of last year.  The Joint Committee intends to report thereon before the summer recess, and the recommendations in its report will be considered during the ongoing process of drafting this Bill in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.

Interlinked with the legislation, officials in the Department of Health, in conjunction with the HSE, are developing a model of care for infertility and an associated public fund for AHR.  This work includes developing proposals on the allocation of the €1 million fund for use in relation to providing public AHR treatment, which was announced in December 2018.

Accordingly, options in relation to the parameters of any potential public funding model, including what age or other eligibility criteria may be included, are still under consideration, and an announcement will be made once the relevant decisions have been finalised.

It should be noted that, while AHR treatment is not currently funded by the Irish Public Health Service, there is some support available in that patients who access IVF treatment privately may claim tax relief on the costs involved under the tax relief for medical expenses scheme.  In addition, a defined list of fertility medicines needed for fertility treatment is covered under the High Tech Arrangements administered by the HSE.  Medicines covered by the High Tech Arrangements must be prescribed by a consultant/specialist and authorised for supply to the client’s nominated community pharmacy by the High Tech Hub managed by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service.  The cost of the medicines is then covered, as appropriate, under the client’s eligibility, i.e., Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme.

Overall, the development of a model of care for infertility will help to ensure the provision of safe, effective and accessible services through the Public Health System as part of the full range of services available in obstetrics and gynaecology.

You may ask the question regarding any stipulations and regulations and, interestingly enough, when you break the €1 Million down to approximately €4,500 per couple, which is what was originally mentioned, this equates to just two hundred and twenty two couples who will potentially gain from the programme.

With costs based entirely dependent on circumstances varying from Blastocyst, to medication or even ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) from €4,500 - €7,000 the potential €4,500 may not cover the costs involved, making it less Free and more financial Assistance.

The model and outline of the funds have yet to be confirmed, but it was thought that the fund would be available from early 2019 However, The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health published the report of its review of the General Scheme on 11 July 2019, as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January 2018. The Committee makes 11 main recommendations, which include proposals both related to broad policy objectives and more technical amendments. Given the comprehensive scope of the legislation and the ethical, legal and social issues which arise from AHR practices, it is anticipated that certain areas of the General Scheme will require further consideration and refinement during the ongoing process of drafting the bill in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.  The Joint Committee’s Report and its recommendations will be considered as part of this process.

Interlinked with the legislation, officials in the Department of Health, in conjunction with the HSE, are developing a model of care for infertility and an associated public fund for AHR.

.  This work includes developing proposals on the allocation of the €1 million fund for use in relation to providing public AHR treatment which was announced in December 2018.

Accordingly, options in relation to the parameters of any potential public funding model, including what age or other eligibility criteria may be included, are still under consideration, and an announcement will be made once the relevant decisions have been finalised.

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