Home > Musings > Australia, The Lucky Country

Australia, The Lucky Country

Australia is sometimes nicknamed ‘the lucky country’.  The person who originally coined this phrase meant it ironically, ie while other countries created their wealth using their brains and innovation, Australia’s prosperity came from natural resources.  That was in the 1960s, and I think a lot has changed.  I think we are lucky, but I think we’ve created our luck.  It’s almost an Australian sport to talk ourselves down, however I’ve lived in many countries and wouldn’t change my passport again for any other.  IVF is certainly a great example of why we are a lucky country.

I’ve had a few people ask me how I can afford so many IVF cycles; 14 cycles must seem crazy to people where a cycle often costs US$10,000.  In Australia we have Medicare, which here is a publicly funded universal health care system.  If you’re an Australian resident, you have access to Medicare.   In addiction to Medicare we also have the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which subsidises prescribed pharmaceuticals, and the Private Health Insurance rebate, where the government funds 30% of private health insurance giving you the option to be treated in a private hospital.  Yes, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than having no system at all.

Here’s why I’m discussing all this in this blog: IVF cycles cost me hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.  Yes, it’s still a lot of money to spend on something I don’t ‘need’, but it’s affordable when you’re as desperate an infertile as I am.  It helps that my clinic is also one of the lowest priced clinics in Oz.  (From what I hear.)

I was going to dig out all my papers from the past few cycles to make sure I had all the figures right, but somehow the first paper I grabbed as a receipt for my early pregnancy scan from last October and knowing what other things might be lurking there that might upset me I’m not looking again, sorry.  (I know thefirst cycle of the year cost a bit more, but I can’t remember how much it cost; I try not to think about it!)  So here are the figures from my last cycle.  The fee for the cycle was $4,990.  Medicare reimbursed the doctor for 85% of the scheduled fee, which works out to $,2680.90.  I then paid the balance of my bill, $2,309.10.  When I received my receipt for payment, I then went back to Medicare for a substantiation payment (i.e. money I got back from Medicare) of $1,847.30.  The total I’m out of pocket for the cycle? $461.80.  Not pocket change, but not $10,000.

And medication?  It is covered by the PBS.

And hospital expenses?  It is covered by our private health insurance.

Of course every year what is and isn’t covered by Medicare is reviewed, so it could always be cut drastically.  In fact this year changes were put in place that caused a lot of confusion.  For forward planning there’s no guarantee how much IVF would cost next year.  There has been talk of limiting the number of cycles Medicare will pay for each year or putting an age cap on who can receive it.  Luckily that hasn’t happened.

This isn’t the post I was planning to write today; it’s been in my drafts for a bit ever since I started getting emails and comments asking how I can afford so many cycles.  However I was inspired to dust off the post and publish it today after reading a recent post at Chubby Girl’s Aventures in Weight Loss and Baby Makin’.  They’ve recently found out that IVF looks to be their only option.  Not only do they have to deal with the stress of that, but now they have to contemplate how they can possibly come up with the $10,000+ they’re going to need to do it.  So they’re asking for donations on her blog, even if visitors only donate $1.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to have to do that.  If I’d had to do that, I wouldn’t have had even one cycle.  There’s no way I could have stuck it out long enough to have met my dear Blobby; he was conceived in cycle #10.  As much as it hurts that he’s died, at least he lived within me and still does in my heart.  So I’ve donated a little bit.  If you can, please donate too – even just $1.  Read her blog.  She’s lovely but like most of us has been slapped around by infertility.  This was my way of helping her fight back at our common enemy.

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Categories: Musings
  1. bir
    02/09/2010 at 4:00 pm

    Good post tasivfer! I just want to add too though, so that our o/s friends don’t assume that being the ‘lucky country’ means it’s all chocolates and roses… for us, we are in a lower private health fund, that doesn’t cover IVF services – I looked into upping it, but we just can’t afford to double our monthly dues and it would mean a twelve month waiting period also, so we chose to not be concerned – ultimately it only really affects our in hospital services (about $1000 for EPU) which we are out of pocket.
    The changes to IVF claims with Medicare that came in in Jan 10, have mainly affected our FETs – last year we would have been out of pocket less than $500 per FET, but this year it is now $1500. We fall into the ‘low income’ bracket, which means that forking this out for back to back FETs is stressful, and would mean that we would have to give up a lot sooner so I try to not think about it.
    Ultimately though… for us, we have had two IVF/ICSI cycles and four FETs. We have paid around $30,000, but are ‘only’ out of pocket around $15,000 – including all cycles, meds, hospital etc.

    I try not to think of the big $ amount. And I wish it were able to be made ‘more affordable’ so that others I know could afford to do it rather than having to give up the dream. But I am grateful that our health system does (thus far) give us the option!

    Good luck 🙂

  2. 02/09/2010 at 4:38 pm

    We really are fortunate to have the system that we have here – even though it isn’t perfect, it’s a lot better than others. When I read about people spending $40k over two cycles…there is no way we could do that. Money is a factor for us, more so now that in the past. I was out of pocket about $4k when we cycled, but I didn’t have PHI then and had some drugs that weren’t covered. (I do have PHI now, and am glad of it). Your clinic still sounds very inexpensive though.

  3. a
    02/09/2010 at 11:11 pm

    I just went through the costs of IVF with my clinic, and with my insurance, the cost is at least double what you’re paying…which is still quite good in comparison to most people. I’m not sure how much the drugs would be (another few hundred dollars, in theory), and there are things that insurance doesn’t cover at all. But I am fortunate enough to live in a state that mandates insurance coverage for infertility. Again, not perfect, but I’m lucky to have options.

  4. 03/09/2010 at 12:06 am

    That is amazing. People in the states are so resistant to change, that they forget to look into the possible benefits. The medical system in the States is a joke. The fact that even IVF costs what it does is a factor of driven up insurance factors. It’s kind of infuriating. Though, for those of you down under, I am really grateful you get assistance- even if it’s something! I didn’t realize for some reason that all of your cycles were IVFs- that’s a LOT to go through physically. But I guess I wouldn’t have bothered with IUI’s for as long as I did if IVF’s were cheaper. And all told, this will be my 14th cycle too (including the IUIs)- may 14 be lucky for both of us!

  5. 03/09/2010 at 12:14 am

    great post disa, if i lived in the states i may be able to afford one cycle only, i often think how lucky we are here x

  6. 03/09/2010 at 8:04 am

    I just can’t thank you enough, both for your donation and for taking the time to mention my husband’s and my struggle! *GINORMOUS HUGS*

  7. 03/09/2010 at 11:54 pm

    wow … that IS amazing! Sometimes I think there should be a huge fundraising campaign for people like this … who can’t afford IVF, and for whom it’s the only option. Even better …I wish all health insurance would cover it like yours does!

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