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Quebec to offer free IVF

14 March 2010
Appeared in BioNews 549

Yves Bolduc, the Minister for Health in Quebec, Canada, has announced plans to introduce free fertility treatment through the extension of Medicare coverage. This move will fulfil Premier Jean Charest's 2008 campaign promise.

The programme is expected to cost Quebec $32 million in its first year of implementation, rising to $80 million by 2014. However, the new system is expected to make savings in other areas. Under the current private-sector treatments, cost effectiveness means that more than one embryo are usually implanted at a time. This often leads to multiple births and increases the risk of premature deliveries. Under the new Medicare system, single embryo transfer will be preferred and the number of premature births is anticipated to decrease from 30 per cent to under 10 per cent for assisted pregnancies. Bolduc emphasised that this decline is expected to save the medical system a significant amount.

Dr Hananel Holzer of the McGill University Reproductive Centre expressed his approval for the plans to provide free treatment. The Centre currently performs 1,000 cycles of embryo implantation a year at the cost of $10,000 per cycle. With the introduction of free fertility treatment that number is now expected to rise to 3,000 to 4,000 cycles by 2014. Holzer commented that 'it's the most frustrating thing to hear from a couple: 'We can't have child, we want to have a child, but we can't afford it''. The announcement made on Thursday moved towards combating this problem.

While such an expansion of medicare coverage has generally been welcomed, the feeling amongst independent experts is that they have not yet been given the opportunity to digest the proposals. Abby Lippman, an expert on reproductive genetics from McGill University said that the press release has not really provided more information and that she had not yet seen the proposed regulations to govern the programme. Nine pages of legal text were distributed just before Bolduc began the news conference giving little time for analysis and reflection. There will now be a 45-day window for independent experts to comment. As Lippman said, 'the devil is in the details - and we don't have a single detail.'

However, while comments are being formulated by the fertility community, the overall response has been that of excitement. Beverly Hanck, executive director of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada in Montreal stated: 'This is wonderful news'.

Fertility treatment will be free: Bolduc
The Montreal Gazette |  12 March 2010
Quebec moves closer to offering free IVF treatments |  12 March 2010
Quebec to fund in vitro fertility treatments
CBC News |  12 March 2010
Quebec to provide free fertility treatments
Vancouver Sun |  11 March 2010
25 October 2010 - by Nishat Hyder 
Polish MPs have begun debating measures to regulate fertility treatments, sparking widespread discussions over the regulatory options and ethical considerations surrounding assisted conception...
26 July 2010 - by Seil Collins 
The provincial government of Quebec is fulfilling its promise to provide free IVF treatment, with the service becoming available on 5 August 2010. Prospective patients are already lining up to register for the programme, but specialists warn the government's plan is premature and ill thought-out....
5 July 2010 - by Rosemary Paxman 
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is considering lifting its age limit for free IVF on the National Health Service (NHS), as part of a full review of its guidelines. Instead, women would be offered free IVF on the NHS if they had enough viable eggs...
25 May 2010 - by Professor Abby Lippman 
On 24 March 2010, the Québec Minister of Health and Social Services published two sets of regulations related to assisted reproduction. One specified how the government will supervise clinical and research activities (e.g. IVF); the other laid out the terms for publicly funding these activities...
26 April 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Two board members of the Canadian federal agency 'Assisted Human Reproduction Canada' have unexpectedly quit. This follows the resignations of four senior staff members last year...
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