With all the controversy over multiple births recently -- octuplets born to Nadya Suleman in California and twins born to 60-year-old Ranjit Hayer in Calgary -- I reported in the Toronto Star today about studies showing that simply funding in-vitro fertilization might help alleviate the issue of so many multiple births.
And save some money in the process.
In Canada, patients pay an average of $10,000 for IVF treatments. If the procedure fails, they must pay the fee each time they try again. As a result, most couples opt to implant multiple embryos to ensure that at least one will survive to term.
"The lack of funding creates that tension, which moves people toward (implanting) two rather than one," says Dr. Edward Hughes, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at McMaster University and medical director at ONE Fertility clinic in Hamilton. "They want to improve their chances."
Health economics analyst Lindy Forte calculates that each multiple birth child costs medicare an extra $598,000 over its lifetime.
Here's a breakdown of the overall costs:
Covering IVF under medicare would cost the Ontario government between $70 million and $130 million a year, says Forte, but that would be more than made up for by savings in long-term health care costs. The savings, she says, could be as high as $155 million a year in Ontario alone.
The cost breakdown is:
$40 million a year in perinatal costs when the babies are born.
$25 million in health costs in the first year for low birth weight babies.
Between $70 million and $90 million in long-term health and social services costs to care for children with permanent disabilities as a result of pre-term birth.
Across Canada, Forte says, the cost of covering IVF under medicare would be between $120 million and $200 million, while the cost savings would be between $230 million and $260 million.
"The cost of funding the IVF cycle is completely offset," she says.
The problem, however, is that many people seeing using IVF as a personal choice. Forte counters that "Infertility is a medical problem and all couples have the right to reproduce."
Of such disputes are ethics debates made.