Free in-vitro fertilization treatment is back in Quebec, but there are restrictions

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On Wednesday, Lionel Carmant, the province's junior health minister, unveiled the rules and financial framework for Quebec's publicly funded in-vitro fertilization program. In 2015, the treatment was removed from medicare coverage.  (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC - image credit)
On Wednesday, Lionel Carmant, the province's junior health minister, unveiled the rules and financial framework for Quebec's publicly funded in-vitro fertilization program. In 2015, the treatment was removed from medicare coverage. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC - image credit)

As of Nov. 15, Quebec will once again provide free in-vitro fertilization treatment, years after the previous Liberal government scrapped its coverage as a cost-cutting measure.

At a news conference Wednesday, Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant and Finance Minister Eric Girard laid out the rules for the province's publicly funded fertilization services.

The funding for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment will be available as of next Monday for single women, as well as women in heterosexual and same-sex couples. In order to be eligible, people must have a medical note stating that they can't conceive as a couple or on their own.

They must also be between the age of 18 and 41 to start treatment, and be younger than 42 to undergo an embryo transfer.

The IVF treatment will cover one in-vitro fertilization cycle, up to two ovarian stimulations, one egg retrieval, standard IVF services, one straw of donor sperm and a single surgical sperm cell collection. Embryos can be stored and frozen for one year.

For men with fertility issues, the government will also cover up to six sperm donations.

"The strict [criteria] of the program are meant to respect, first of all, the government's ability to pay, while targeting the services that have a higher chance of success and the fewer effects on the mother and the newborn," Carmant said.

"It's a priority to help all Quebecers to start a family."

Sang Tan/The Associated Press
Sang Tan/The Associated Press

Girard said the program will cost about $50 million annually. About 10 per cent of women who undergo IVF treatment are able to get pregnant.

The program follows the adoption of Bill 73 by the National Assembly in March.

Quebec began covering all the costs of in-vitro fertilization back in 2010, allowing couples to receive compensation for up to three full IVF attempts.

The Liberals cancelled coverage of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments in 2015.

The health minister at the time, Gaétan Barrette, said the program was too costly and not restrictive enough, referring to it as an "open bar."

Carmant said the province expects to fund 3,500 IVF cycles by the end of the fiscal year. He said that number will likely rise to 7,000 cycles the following year, and 5,200 the one after that, before stabilizing at about 3,500 annually.

If a person doesn't meet the province's criteria for free treatments and has to pay out of pocket, they are still eligible for tax credits that will cover between 20 and 80 per cent of the costs, depending on their income, Those credits cannot surpass $20,000 per year.

The tax credit will also be available to people seeking a second IVF cycle, after the first one was covered by medicare.

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