Cuts could hit parents hard
After two years of trying to conceive, Marcoola’s Sonja and John Granger have welcomed their beautiful daughter Alexandra into the world.
But they are worried that other couples on IVF or artificial insemination programs might not be able to afford treatment if reports the federal government plans to means-test the Medicare safety net are correct.
The safety net program allows people to claim 80% of their out-of-pocket medical expenses after they have spent more than the threshold of $1111 in a year.
Sonja said she was not aware of the Medicare safety net until after the first attempt at artificial insemination failed.
“When it failed I was so stressed, and the higher stressed you are, the less chance it has of working,” she said.
“It’s $1000 a time to do artificial insemination.
“And it failed. It failed the first and the second time.”
But when she went to get her Medicare rebate after the second attempt, she received about $800 instead of the expected $200.
“It just took all the stress off. Instead of being $1000 a time, it was $200 a time,” she said.
“And the third time it worked.
“I know that the economy and times are tough but there must be other ways to save money, like fireworks and sporting things.”
Sonja said IVF treatment, at more than $5000 a time, was even more prohibitive without the safety net.
“We were meant to go to IVF the third time because the other two failed.
“But they thought they’d try artificial insemination one more time.”
She said two years of trying to conceive did not sound a long time, but it involved more than six months of negative pregnancy tests, visiting naturopaths and receiving acupuncture.
“I would have worn a snake around my neck if I thought it would work,” she said.
“Without that Medicare safety net I don’t know if we would have Alex – I think I would have been too stressed.
“When something costs $1000, it’s kind of got to work.”
It is not only couples trying to conceive that Sonja is concerned about but people with heart conditions, cancer and anyone with big medical bills.
“If they are going to reduce it, they are going to hit the people who really can’t afford the extra stress.”
She said finally having a baby was “the most incredible feeling”.
“When they put that baby on your chest, you feel so lucky,” Sonja said.
“I know plenty of people who have been through the whole process and it hasn’t worked.”
The AMA has called on the government to honour its election promises and make a renewed commitment to the safety net.
AMA president Dr Rosanna Capolingua said Australian working families relied on the safety net more than ever.
“More than a million Australians receive some relief in health costs through the Medicare safety net each year,” she said.
“When times are tough, and you are sick, you need the government to back you up so that you or your family can see the doctor when you need to.”
The government has not confirmed or denied claims the safety net could be a victim of its “razor gang”, intent on cutting spending in next month’s budget.