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Fertility doctors are worried they will be under pressure to implant multiple embryos into women who cannot afford ongoing treatment due to new financial safety net caps, a leading IVF specialist says

Having two embryos implanted into the uterus instead of one raises a woman’s chance of having a multiple birth, says IVF Australia chairman Professor Michael Chapman.

As part of Medicare Safety Net restrictions unveiled in Tuesday’s budget, payments for IVF will be capped at different rates for each stage of treatment once a person reaches the safety net threshold for out-of-pocket medical expenses, which is $1,111.60, or $555.70 for those on low incomes.
This could hit women with an extra $1,500 to $2,000 of out-of-pocket costs per IVF cycle.

There are also caps on safety net payments in other areas including obstetrics, varicose vein and cataract surgery.                                                        embryo

Under the changes, pregnant women who choose to see a private obstetrician will be out of pocket by $550 unless doctors lower their fees.

“That is why the government is urging women to question their doctors about their fees,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.

An average of $4.5 million of taxpayers’ money is paid to the top 10 per cent of IVF specialists each year.

But Prof Chapman said the government, which says it wants to crack down on specialists who charge exorbitant fees, was using the figures for political gain.

“For every doctor that gets money, there are 10 staff members, the scientists, counsellors and nurses, they get funded through the rebate,” he told AAP.

Prof Chapman said he accepted there had been a 40 per cent rise in IVF fees over the past five years but said that it was in line with general medical inflation.

Current Medicare rebates, which work out to about $4,200 per child, go towards employing about 2,000 people in private IVF clinics nationally and investing in research and facilities, Prof Chapman said.

He estimated out-of-pocket costs for patients would rise from $1,600 to between $3,000 and $3,500 when the safety net caps come into effect on July 1, 2010.

It can often take more than one IVF cycle for a woman to fall pregnant.

“Certainly, patients are going to be more out of pocket for IVF than they have been in the past,” Prof Chapman said.

He warned doctors would be under pressure to implant more than one embryo per cycle into women as a result of safety net restrictions, increasing the chance of multiple births.

“Over the last five years in Australia the twin rate has dropped dramatically because we have been able to put one embryo back,” he said.

“But if patients think they won’t be able to afford the next cycle they will put a lot of pressure on the doctor to put two embryos back.”

Ms Roxon said her department would work with medical professionals to restructure the system to better reflect stages in a treatment cycle.
www.sbs.com.au

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budget 09TONIGHT’S Federal Budget will be about three things – jobs, nation building and a path back to surplus.

That was the message from Treasurer Wayne Swan this morning as he again repeated the Government’s mantra that there would be “difficult decisions” and “no easy answers”.

Just hours from delivering a in Budget ravaged by a $200 billion writedown revenue, Mr Swan said he was working in the “most difficult set of circumstances in 75 years”.

But he dodged questions about the likely impact on Labor in the polls, saying: “What we have to do is the right thing in the nation’s long-term economic interests”.

Wealthy retirees emerged as the latest group to pay the price for that stance today.

The Daily Telegraph reported they could have their pensions cut to help fund a $30-a week increase for almost one million single age pensioners.

The Government is expected to tighten the taper rate on the age pension, a method by which it claws back the welfare payment from retirees with an independent income.

It is just one of a number of cutbacks the Government is expected to outline as it tries to rein in an expected almost $60 billion Budget deficit.

The 30 per cent tax rebate for private health insurance coverage will be means tested, payouts for obstetric and IVF services under the Medicare Safety Net will be cut back and the increase in the first-home owners grant will be wound back.

Wealthy Australians will have their tax break on superannuation contributions cut in half and government superannuation co-contributions for low income earners will be slashed from $1500 to $1000 a year.

The “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes could be increased.

But the Budget will announce an 18-week paid maternity leave scheme.

And it is expected to include a big-spending jobs package to combat an expected increase in unemployment to 8.5 per cent as a result of the global financial crisis.

The Opposition said the Budget cutbacks were made necessary by the Government’s irresponsible big-spending stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis.

The $30-a-week rise in the pension will go only to single age pensioners and will see the weekly pension rate rise from $284.90 to $315 a week.

It will answer criticism that the payment left in poverty those who relied solely on the pension.

The rise is also expected to be extended to single veterans and disability pensioners but will not go to single mothers.

The pension rise will cost more than $3 billion, and to help pay for it, the Government is expected to tighten means testing of pensions.

Currently, single pensioners can earn up to $41,000 and still receive a small pension payment.

They also qualify for a range of concessions on medicines, council rates, electricity bills and telephone allowances worth up to $10,000 a year.

Couples can earn up to $68,000 and still get access to these valuable concessions.

http://www.news.com.au

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