Written answers

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Department of Health

Assisted Human Reproduction

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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169. To ask the Minister for Health if he will report on the commissioning of an evidence review of international public funding models for fertility treatment. [43911/19]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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170. To ask the Minister for Health the funding his Department and the HSE are providing for fertility treatment. [43912/19]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 170 together.

In parallel with the ongoing drafting of assisted human reproduction (AHR) legislation, officials in my Department, in conjunction with the HSE, have been developing a model of care for infertility, which incorporates a public funding element.  This work has also included examining proposals for the allocation of a related €1 million fund which was announced by An Taoiseach in December 2018.  Accordingly, options in relation to the parameters of such a models are being finalised and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in the coming weeks.

The Health Research Board (HRB) report “Assisted reproductive technologies: International approaches to public funding mechanisms and criteria – An evidence review” was commissioned by the Department and published in March 2017.

This review examined the public funding mechanisms for AHR in different countries.  It looked at the associated costs and benefits for the funder, provider and patient, the criteria for accessing the public funded service and the basis for these criteria in different jurisdictions. 

The review did not indicate a recommendation or preference for a specific funding model; rather, it outlines the pros and cons of such funding models, the different aspects of models in different jurisdictions, as well as the different rationales underpinning such funding models.  The evidence from the review has been informing the work undertaken by the officials in my Department in the context of considering policy options for a potential public funding model for AHR.

It should be noted that while AHR treatment is not currently funded by the Irish Public Health Service, a defined list of fertility medicines needed for fertility treatment is covered under the High Tech Arrangements administered by the HSE.  Medicines covered by the High Tech Arrangements must be prescribed by a consultant/specialist and authorised for supply to the client’s nominated community pharmacy by the High Tech Hub managed by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service.  The cost of the medicines is then covered, as appropriate, under the client’s eligibility, i.e., Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme.  I understand that the impact on the total cost of AHR treatment for individuals who avail of these schemes is not insignificant. 

In addition, there is other support available in that patients who access IVF treatment privately may claim tax relief on the costs involved under the tax relief for medical expenses scheme. 

Overall, the development of a model of care for infertility will help to ensure the provision of safe, effective and accessible infertility services at all levels of the public health system as part of the full range of services available in obstetrics and gynaecology.


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