Community groups say they don’t expect Federal Government budget plans to drop IVF and obstetrics subsidies to greatly affect rainbow families seeking IVF treatment.

Same-sex family advocates, the Rainbow Families Council said their focus remains on Centrelink’s July 1 changes, which will particularly affect couples previously collecting sole parent payments. They now stand to lose over $150 per fortnight.

The Centrelink changes are part of a raft of changes same-sex families face heading into the new financial year.

From July 1, lesbian couples and single women seeking IVF treatment can do so in Victoria for the first time since last year’s state legislation changes.

The Rudd Government last month confirmed plans to abolish subsidies for those undergoing IVF treatment under the Medicare Safety Net although further details have yet to be released.

State clinic Melbourne IVF said it is seeking clarification from the Government over the proposed changes.

The Government said it wants to target IVF clinics who they say have ramped up fees in line with the Safety Net subsidies, a claim that’s angering doctors and specialists in the field.

According to a Government review, over 50 percent of the Medicare Safety Net benefits go to help fund obstetrics and ART services.

IVF industry group ACCESS Australia claims the change will mean IVF will only be available to the rich.
Rainbow Families Council convenor Felicity Marlowe said, although the changes may make it harder, high costs already associated with IVF mean most people seeking treatment are prepared.

-œHaving a child is a very big human desire and people who know they’re going to need help… will have made decisions, including financial decisions, about how they’re going to go about doing that. You don’t enter into IVF lightly.

-œAny change that makes it harder or more expensive for people to access treatment is not great.

The Safety Net currently reimburses 80 percent of out-of-pocket costs for IVF costs accrued over $555.70 for low income earners and $1111.60 for others per year.

With the changes, costs are said to soar by up to an extra $2000 per child, putting extra strain on same-sex couples.

Talks have also included placing caps on the number of IVF treatment cycles women can receive.
Marlowe said plans to cap IVF cycles could pose a problem for people going through an already difficult process.

Melbourne IVF’s Dr Lyndon Hale told Southern Star he doesn’t think the Government’s proposal will affect many of his patients, however, it may impact on older prospective parents.

-œI suspect people will still go ahead with treatment because they want to, they’re desperate for kids.

What may happen is they may not be able to afford that second or third treatment for that year, so it may limit access and the difficulty there would be patients who feel they’re running out of time will have to wait to the next year.

Hale rejected criticism levelled at IVF clinics’ high fees, saying they are in line with medical inflation and criticism heaped on clinics reaping undue financial rewards was incorrect.

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