Trying to conceive with the help of a fertility clinic is an expensive process. Even if you happen to be one of the lucky few who conceive in the first cycle, you’re still looking at thousands of dollars. So when Jay and I first made an appointment to see our fertility specialist, one of our first questions was “but how much does it cost, and will Medicare help us?”
To be entitled to a Medicare benefit, that is able to make a Medicare claim, you will need to have incurred medical expenses in respect of a “professional service” (see section 10 of the Health Insurance Act). While you might have paid to see a doctor, whether you can make a Medicare claim depends on whether that appointment was for a professional service.
Under section 3 of the Health Insurance Act a professional service means a service:
- with a “Medicare Benefits Schedule” (MBS) item number;
- provided by a medical practitioner; and
- is “clinically relevant“.
There is an MBS item number for both IUI and IVF (see items 13203, 13221 and 13200 in the Health Insurance (General Medical Services Table) Regulations), which in most cases will be provided by a medical practitioner; this means points one and two of the definition are sorted. The issue which might trip up lesbian couples, is whether the service is clinically relevant.
A clinically relevant service is a service that is generally accepted in the medical profession as being necessary for the appropriate treatment of the patient (see section 3 of the Health Insurance Act).
The legislation doesn’t get much more specific than that unfortunately, so the payment of Medicare benefits for IUI or IVF largely depends on the medical practitioner’s decision that he or she is providing a clinically relevant service. This decision will vary between clinicians, and may be influenced by your background, medical history, age and other factors.
if you have no known cause of infertility, you can contact your fertility clinic to ask what their policy is regard same-sex couples and Medicare claiming. Anecdotally, many fertility specialists will regard a service as clinically relevant once the patient has paid for two IUIs out of pocket.
Another question for the fertility clinic I’m afraid – don’t forget to add it to your list!