The Coalition’s latest promise forks out millions to assist people with certain medical conditions in accessing Medicare-funded Assisted Reproductive Technology services.
Egg, sperm or embryo storage will be subsidised for couples experiencing certain medical conditions by the federal government.
Patients with cancer and people at risk of passing on genetic diseases or conditions who have already undergone Medicare-funded genetic testing will be eligible to access the new government support. The Coalition’s election package commits $14.1 million for these services from November 1 this year.
Scott Morrison used Mother’s Day to announce the funding, explaining he understood the unique struggles of people experiencing fertility issues.
“Right when these aspiring mums and dads need help the most, we’ll be there,” Morrison said in a statement that revealed his own family had used IVF assisted reproductive technologies.
“Our plan for a strong economy isn’t just about the dollars and cents of a budget, it’s about being able to make investments like this that help Australians who need it most.”
Labor have promised to match the pledge, and also called on their opponents to get on board with a universal screening program for newborns. In a statement, Mark Butler said more than 6,000 Australians could be reassured that support would be made available to them no matter the election outcome.
“Labor will also match the government’s pledge to subsidise the storage costs of preserving embryos and deliver perinatal mental health and wellbeing services,” Butler said.
An average of 4,200 people per year will save $600 for egg and sperm storage (as part of an allocated $9.9 million from the spending package).
A further 2,000 patients are expected to save about $600 annually if they have undertaken Medicare-funded pre-implantation genetic diagnosis testing and are identified as high risk for passing on genetic diseases or conditions to their children (as part of $4.5 million commitment).
Morrison said he wanted to help thousands more voters achieve their dream of becoming parents – with the odds to conceive being slimmer for people suffering from cancer or at high risk of passing on genetic diseases or conditions to their children. About one in six Australian couples faced difficulty trying to start a family, he added.
“For people battling cancer or staring down the risk of genetic diseases it’s already a difficult battle, and this new subsidy will help give them more options about their aspirations to become parents,” the PM said.
The Coalition will also provide extra support for would-be parents who were planning a pregnancy and in the first 12 months of a child’s life. A total of $13.7 million has been promised to streamline access to information and services for new parents as part of an expansion of the Birth of a Child Life Event Service pilot program.
Health minister Greg Hunt said the Coalition was investing to improve the lives of new and hopeful parents.
“These investments build on the $330.6 million we committed to women’s health in the budget and will build on the five priority areas of the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 to improve long term health outcomes for all Australians,” Hunt said.
The money will be used to update clinical pregnancy care and postnatal guidelines, and strengthen advice on improving maternity services for families in rural areas for the government.
Government services minister Linda Reynolds said extra funding for the pilot would make it easier for parents to enrol their newborn for Medicare and Centrelink services. The changes would reduce processing times from weeks to days, she added.
“Parents who opt in will simply provide their details once to the hospital, which shares this information with Services Australia to enrol their newborn with Medicare and Centrelink for family assistance,” Reynolds said.
“Rather than have to fill out endless government paperwork, parents can spend more time with their new baby.”
The Coalition will also set aside $25 million investment over four years to deliver 20 new perinatal mental health and wellbeing services nationwide via Gidget Foundation Australia.