Treatment costs for IVF may be coming down in Australia as a result of a price war between fertility clinics.
Two of the country's biggest IVF providers – Virtus Health and the Monash IVF Group – saw lacklustre earnings in financial reports released last week. Competition from low-cost providers and fewer Australians seeking IVF may be to blame, according to media reports.
Fertility services in Australia are overwhelming commercial enterprises - Virtus was the world's first IVF company to float on the stock market in 2013 (see BioNews 709).
Patients accessing fertility services must pay privately (see BioNews 899). They can then claim back for portions of certain costs under the country's Medicare health insurance system, or through private insurance if they have it. But they must be able to afford to pay for costs that are not subsidised by insurance – the so-called 'out-of-pocket' expenses, which may also include certain drugs as well as the remainder of the cost of the main treatments.
Due to competition, Virtus has now adjusted treatment prices at its cheaper clinic chain, The Fertility Centre, to between AU $900 and AU $1500 out-of-pocket costs, Sue Channon, group chief executive officer of Virtus, said according to newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald.
The equivalent costs at a clinic run by low-cost provider Primary Health Care are AUS $800. This provider launched in 2014, with the aim of offering low-cost IVF by bulk-billing all the associated costs covered by Medicare. According to Primary IVF's website: 'The only out of pocket expenses you will incur are those not covered by Medicare, however, these may not be applicable to all patients.'
Professor Alan Trounson at Monash University suggested prices could fall further. 'I do think the price could go lower,' he said, reported the newspaper. 'At least for younger patients, where the woman is under 38 years of age and the men are in their late 40s, their fertility is pretty strong and I think they could be treated in a much more economical manner than they are currently being treated.'
But demand for IVF in the country has also fallen. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the number of total IVF cycles in Australia were down by 1.2 percent in the year to June.