Medicare Will Soon Cover Genetic Testing For IVF Babies - Women's Health

Medicare Will Soon Cover Genetic Testing For IVF Babies

From November 1, medicare will offer rebates for Australians using IVF to identify genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and other illnesses.

In a landmark moment for parents undergoing IVF, it’s been announced that pre-implantation genetic testing will now be subsidised by Medicare, giving prospective parents a much-higher chance of having a healthy baby and saving them around $4,000. 

It’s a significant milestone as previously, people who knew they were carriers of serious genetic disorders could only access such testing services if they were able to pay privately. As the changes now suggest, from November 1, Australians will be able to claim a Medicare rebate for five items covering new pre-implantation genetic testing services provided within the existing IVF process. Such testing can be used for genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, fragile X, neurofibromatosis and Huntington’s disease. It comes as the government will provide $95.9 million to ensure these services can be reimbursed through Medicare. 

As Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt explained to The Sunday Telegraph, “Until now, people who know they are carriers of serious genetic disorders could only access these testing services if they were able to pay privately.” 

He added, “Medicare funding will support individuals or couples who carry a risk of passing on a serious genetic or chromosomal disorder to their child for which there is no cure and which causes a severe limitation on the quality of life.”

As Kidspot reports, the Medicare subsidy is being hailed as an “amazing outcome” by the scientist who pioneered the PGT five day embryo test, Scientific Director of Genea, Steven McArthur. Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, McArthur said: “What is already a difficult process will be made less expensive and now more accessible to patients…it is a great use of Medicare resources.”

According to Dr Tristan Hardy, Medical Director of Genetics at Monash IVF Group and an expert in preimplantation genetic testing, the new Medicare subsidy would provide peace of mind to more women and couples planning pregnancy. 

“This is an important step in supporting women’s health and providing better health outcomes for families and one that we have been pushing for on behalf of patients for many years,” said Dr Hardy. 

Previously, the IVF component of such tremens had been funded by the MBS, but didn’t include preimplantation genetic testing, making preimplantation genetic testing inaccessible to many families. “Preimplantation testing is an exceptionally important medical treatment that gives women and couples the option of testing embryos for genetic conditions that they may carry, such as Fragile X syndrome or cystic fibrosis, or may personally be affected by, such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer,” Dr Hardy explained. 

“Australia is now one of the first countries in the world to have this treatment broadly supported by the Government and the health system. It’s extremely forward thinking.”

As well as that, there will also be expanded use of Verzenio under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), seeing an expansion of the breast cancer treatment. 

From November 1, Verzenio will be listed for expanded use under the PBS, benefiting close to 1,600 Australians each year. 

As Hunt explained to ABC,  “Without this PBS subsidy, Australian patients would pay around $80,000 per course of treatment, instead they’ll only pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card for these medicines.”

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