The Ontario Liberals announced new funding to help women conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF), a decision that was welcomed by families struggling with infertility.
Health Minister Deb Matthews made the announcement on Thursday morning, saying that while she didn’t know the exact cost, Ontario is expected to pay out $50 million annually if the program is fully implemented.
As of next year, the government is proposing to contribute to the costs of one cycle of IVF treatment per patient for all forms of infertility. An advisory panel will determine how much each couple will receive as well as who is eligible.
“This is a huge step forward for infertile couples in Ontario,” a spokesperson for Conceivable Dreams, which calls itself the “OHIP for IVF Coalition,” said in a statement.
“As a result of this policy, IVF treatments will be more accessible for the one in six Ontarians having challenges starting a family,” co-founder Joanne Horibe said.
“With IVF costing as much as $10,000 for a single cycle, not including travel and time off work, IVF is currently beyond the financial means of most people. That public health funding will cover even part of this burden is tremendous news.”
However, families or their health plans will continue to pay the cost of the associated drug treatments and ancillary services, which can cost thousands of dollars. The health minister said the government hasn’t decided yet whether it will offset the treatment cycle costs through a tax credit or through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
Matthews also said the government would study single-embryo transfer, to reduce the risk of multiple births.
“Supporting the safe use of modern IVF treatment will result in fewer high risk pregnancies – while at the same time helping thousands of Ontarians realize their dream of having their own family,” Matthews said.
The government estimates 4,000 people will benefit from the the funding. Currently, one in six couples in the province are affected by infertility at some point in their lives, and babies born through infertility treatments now represent about one to two per cent of live births in Ontario.
The government also said it was beefing up its adoption services, doubling the number of Adoption Resource Exchanges across Ontario. The Exchanges provide information on public, private and international adoptions.
The New Democrats had IVF funding as part of their last campaign platform. Thursday’s announcement by the minority Liberals comes ahead of their spring budget, which would lead to an election if defeated by the opposition parties.
Quebec became the first jurisdiction in North America to pay for fertility treatments in 2010, including the cost of drugs, for three to six IVF cycles.
Manitoba offers a tax credit to cover part of the costs to a maximum of $8,000 a year.
With files from The Canadian Press