IVF Funding in Ireland – What Will This Really Mean To Its Costs?

November 23, 2017

How will funding help the cost of IVF in Ireland?

Finally, the news that so many patients have been waiting for! In October this year Minister for Health Simon Harris announced ‘that by the end of the year he wants to clarify for families what financial assistance would be available for IVF from 2019’ and he ‘made it very clear that he wants to put in place supports to help subsidise the cost of IVF for families’. But what will this really mean?

It is a common misperception that the state has historically provided no financial support to couples or individuals undergoing assisted reproduction treatment. Conversely, some financial support has always been in place from two perspectives, the drug payment scheme and Med 1 health expenses relief. Typically the drugs necessary to support a single round of IVF cost between €2,000 and €4,000. However, once registered under the drug payment scheme at a nominated pharmacy, patients receive most of the drugs at a cost of €144 per month. In addition, the Med 1 health expenses relief scheme recognises fertility test treatment and will refund 20% of the cost.

How will IVF funding be distributed?

It is difficult to predict how the state will fund IVF, but perhaps we can get some hints from the IVF funding model in England. In England the country is geographically divided into clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which are NHS organisations set up to organise the delivery of NHS services. Each individual CCG sets policies regarding the number of IVF cycles to be funded by the NHS and the criteria that patient(s) must meet in order to receive funding. The provision of IVF treatment varies across the country with some CCGs funding up to three IVF cycles, while others will fund just one. CCGs may have additional criteria that patients need to meet before they can have IVF on the NHS, such as:

  • not having any children already, from both current and any previous relationships
  • being a healthy weight
  • not smoking
  • falling into a certain age range (for example, some CCGs only fund treatment for women under 35 years of age)

While the announcement for state funding of IVF treatment is greatly welcomed and is a massive step in the right direction, the devil will be in the detail.  In the coming months clarity should be given regarding the government’s plans for the number of cycles to be funded and any restrictive criteria for the provision of state funding to couples or individuals. ReproMed Ireland is currently at the table with the Department of Health advocating full funding of at least one IVF cycle but it may be that only partial funding of one single cycle will manifest at the outset. Funding is a concept only and no clear dates are forthcoming but our best guesstimate will be that it is a good time away into 2019. Our best advice is not to delay your essential treatment while you wait for state funding which may not materialize because it is politically dependent on a stable government with no elections in the near future.

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