Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (1113, 1247, 1353, 1422, 1532, 1630)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1113. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the financial assistance available for families that need to undergo IVF treatment as in the case of a person (details supplied). [31735/19]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

1247. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health when the fund in respect of publicly funded assisted human reproduction will be made available; the way in which prospective patients will apply; if he will make access to the fund available on a retrospective basis; if persons will have access to the fund at a later date in respect of the treatment should they opt for assisted human reproduction before the scheme is introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32343/19]

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Frank O'Rourke

Question:

1353. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Health if the review of the assisted human reproduction Bill has been completed further to his announcement in December 2018 that funding was to be provided for fertility treatment under the public health system; if so, the details on the scheme; if the application process is now open; if funding applications will be means tested; if funding will be backdated to 2018 for applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32647/19]

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Kathleen Funchion

Question:

1422. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Health the progress made regarding free fertility treatment for couples experiencing such difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32833/19]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

1532. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health his plans to provide free IVF services to those that need such treatment; if this service will be means tested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33291/19]

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Niamh Smyth

Question:

1630. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the financial assistance in place for families that need to undergo IVF treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33638/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1113, 1247, 1353, 1422, 1532 and 1630 together.

In October 2017, the Government approved the drafting of a bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated areas of research, based on the published General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.  The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health published the report of its review of the General Scheme on 11 July 2019, as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January 2018. The Committee makes 11 main recommendations, which include proposals both related to broad policy objectives and more technical amendments. Given the comprehensive scope of the legislation and the ethical, legal and social issues which arise from AHR practices, it is anticipated that certain areas of the General Scheme will require further consideration and refinement during the ongoing process of drafting the bill.  The Joint Committee’s Report and its recommendations will be considered as part of this process.

Interlinked with the legislation, officials in my Department, in conjunction with the HSE, are developing a model of care for infertility and an associated public fund for AHR.  This work includes developing proposals on the allocation of the €1 million fund for use in relation to AHR which was announced in December 2018.

Accordingly, options in relation to the parameters of any potential public funding model, including what eligibility criteria may be included, are still under consideration, and an announcement will be forthcoming once the relevant decisions have been finalised.

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 services through the public health system as part of the full range of services available in obstetrics and gynaecology.