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Liberals promise to help infertile women, expand IVF coverage

TORONTO – Ontario's governing Liberals are promising to provide limited coverage of infertility services to more women who are struggling to get pregnant.

They say they plan to help would-be parents pay for one cycle of in vitro fertilization for all forms of infertility starting early next year.

But the province won't cover the costs of drugs and other services associated with IVF which can cost thousands of dollars.

Health Minister Deb Matthews wouldn't say exactly how much of the IVF costs will be covered, but estimates Ontario will pay out $50 million annually once the program is fully implemented.

She says the government hasn't decided yet whether it will offset the costs through a tax credit or through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

In an interview with, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen says the newly announced plans will hopefully result in more equal access to financial support for all who require IVF.

“I am very pleased to hear that the Ontario government will provide funding for all types of infertility. Currently, the only IVF funding available in Ontario is for women with two blocked fallopian tubes. This is discriminatory to men (for example, men with azoospermia), and to everyone else requiring fertility treatments for any other reason,” says Cohen.

As a whole, the funding announcement, adds Cohen, is cause for cautious optimism.

“There are reasonable concerns that funding may increase wait times (which is a significant problem when timing is so important when it comes to fertility and age) and government interference may impede on the clinics’ ability to perform their role effectively. These are the same types of criticism we see in general when it comes to publicly funded health care. It is because of these types of concerns that I am cautiously optimistic – I am hopeful that the government will allocate enough funding in an equitable, reasonable and effective manner. I hope this isn’t just an election promise.

“While there are strong legal and financial reasons to do so, most importantly – it is just the right thing to do. If we as Ontarians believe in publicly funded health care, we must support the idea that all people, and not only those with the financial means, should be entitled to reproductive health care.”

Cohen tells the National Post, “It isn’t appropriate to pick and choose which types of health care ought to be funded. It also doesn’t sit well with me that individuals who have the means to access treatment are better able to build their families when faced with infertility than are individuals without the means to do so.”

The Liberals made an election promise in 2007 to make fertility monitoring available earlier in life and make treatment ``more accessible and affordable.''

Couples struggling with infertility say they've had to spend tens of thousands of dollars for drugs and treatments.

Matthews says some infertile women turn to less effective and more dangerous alternatives to try to get pregnant, which can significantly increase the risk of multiple, pre-term births and severe medical and developmental problems.

She says she'll establish an advisory body for recommendations on how the Liberals could implement the program.

It will also advise the government on ways to best to promote safety, such as single embryo transfer to reduce the rate of multiple births.

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

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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