Funding for fertility treatments due

The Minister for Health has announced plans to fund fertility treatment in conjunction with envisaged legislation. The aim is to provide public funding for assisted human reproductive (AHR) treatment in conjunction with the introduction of legislation in this area.

While fertility treatment is not now provided in the Irish public health service, financial support is available to individuals. For example, tax relief for medical expenses and the cost of certain approved fertility medicines are covered under the Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS).

Funding for fertility treatment would be considered in tandem with “closing the current legislative gap” in this area of healthcare, said Minister Leo Varadkar. “Fertility treatments should be funded in such a way that not only maximises efficiency but that ensures equity of access as well,” said the Minister.

“Nevertheless, the provision of public funding for assisted human reproduction must be accompanied by a robust system of legal governance that will promote and protect the health and well-being of patients and most especially the children who will be born as a result of the treatment.”

In February 2015, the Government gave approval to draft a General Scheme of legislative provisions dealing with a broad range of aspects relating to AHR. Drafting is under way and the General Scheme will be published in the first half of 2016.

The aim of the legislation will be to promote and ensure the health and safety of parents, others involved in the process (such as egg/sperm donors and surrogate mothers) and, most importantly, the children who will be born as a result of assisted reproduction.

The Department of Health is commissioning an evidence review of international public funding models. The review will inform policy regarding the optimal mechanism for any future public funding of AHR in the State.

AHR encompasses in vitro fertilisation (IVF), pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, intra-uterine insemination, intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection and gamete donation. Currently, there are a number of fertility clinics operating in Ireland offering a broad range of AHR services, which remains largely unregulated.

Although IVF treatment is not provided 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 Scheme administered by the HSE. Medicines covered by the High Tech Scheme must be prescribed by a consultant/specialist and approved by the HSE High Tech Liaison Officers. The cost of the medicines is then covered, as appropriate, under the Medical Card or DPS.

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