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Govt's IVF plan criticised -

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Govt's IVF plan criticised

Reporter: Peta Donald

TONY JONES: There is mounting criticism of a Federal Government plan to limit Medicare funding for
in-vitro fertilisation. At a cost of $7,000 a cycle, IVF treatment can be an expensive business,
with Medicare paying at least half the bill. But the Opposition wants the public subsidy to
continue, and today launched a petition that it hopes will change the Government's course. From
Canberra, Peta Donald reports.

PETA DONALD: Like one in 35 Australian babies, these twins, Taylor and Cooper, are the result of
in-vitro fertilisation. They're precious to their parents after the emotional roller-coaster of
seven cycles of IVF.

CYNDI DOWNIE, IVF MOTHER: I did fall pregnant a few times and miscarried and had an ectopic
pregnancy. So it's a pretty hard thing to be going through without worrying about the number of
cycles being limited.

PETA DONALD: Almost one-third of IVF babies are born to mothers who have had more than three cycles
of IVF treatment, according to the opposition. It's launched a petition against the Government's
plan to limit Medicare funding for IVF, Julia Gillard saying it's a change of policy that should
have been taken to last year's election.

JULIA GILLARD, OPPOSITION HEALTH SPOKESWOMAN: We are calling on all Australians who are disgusted
with the Howard Government's lack of honesty and disgusted with its lack of compassion to sign this
petition.

PETA DONALD: Peter Costello has confirmed the Government is considering winding back how much
Medicare subsidises IVF.

PETER COSTELLO, FEDERAL TREASURER: What is the optimal medical outcome? There is no point in giving
treatments where there is a very, very low chance of success.

PETA DONALD: Reports suggest the Government stands to save $7 million a year by limiting
Medicare-funded IVF to three cycles a year, and to three cycles in total for women over 42.

JULIA GILLARD: $7 million, in the context of the federal health Budget - which of course is in the
tens of billions - is not big dollars.

PETA DONALD: IVF doctors argue it could cost the health system more in the long run if women,
worried about treatment being limited, have more embryos replaced at a time, leading to more
multiple pregnancies.

DR DAVID MOLLOY, IVF SPECIALIST: Our multiple pregnancy rates, which we've been responsibly
reducing, will rise again. It will only take 10 complicated multiple pregnancies in this country to
completely erase the savings they're intending to do in the Budget.

PETA DONALD: IVF doctors are also perplexed they haven't been consulted by the Government. They
don't believe Peter Costello's argument that limiting funding for IVF is a medical rather than
financial issue. The Health Minister wasn't commenting today, but there did seem to be support from
another Cabinet minister.

KAY PATTERSON, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES MINISTER: It's about ensuring that when we pay
taxpayers' dollars, that we get the best outcome and the highest rate of success, whether it be
with rheumatoid arthritis, whether it be with IVF.

PETA DONALD: It'll all be much clearer when the Budget is delivered on Tuesday week. Peta Donald,
Lateline.