The Liberals are in the process of investing $50 million towards assisted reproductive technology. This will apply to 4,000 infertile individuals — about $12,500 per couple — and will cover one fresh IVF cycle, as well as all subsequent frozen embryo transfers resulting from this initial cycle.

Reducing costs & risks

Dr. Marjorie Dixon, fertility specialist and Medical Director at First Steps Fertility, says this is a huge victory, not only for those wanting to build a family, but also for the entire province.

“It’s a responsible thing to do on a health economics perspective,” she says.

When patients are paying for IVF, Dixon explains, they’re more likely to implore their physician to transfer more than one embryo, which makes them more likely to have multiple children at one time.

While carrying more than one baby is a thrilling idea to families trying to conceive, it puts mothers at a higher risk of having a complicated pregnancy. This could ultimately lead to a costly intervention, such as time spent in the neo-natal care unit. Yet, when someone is paying upwards of $10,000, they’re willing to accept the risks of implanting more than one embryo if it means a shot at getting pregnant.

“If we say, ‘this is funded by the government and the stipulation in funding is that we do elective single embryo transfer in you,’ they will have no option and we can diminish the admissions and the cost to the government at the end of the line,” Dixon explains. “It will end up saving the province money to invest the money at the head of the line so that we can control the number embryos that get transferred into the uterus of individuals in Ontario.”

Sorting out the details

Now that the budget has passed, the government is in the process of forming an advisory group, which will work out the complex details of how it will be funded, what the eligibility criteria will be, and how to regulate the embryo transfers. Dixon says the funding should be in place in the fiscal year of 2015, though which quarter remains to be seen.

Dr. Tom Hannam, owner of Hannam Fertility Clinic in Toronto, says the funding gives a chance to patients who wouldn’t have been able to have a shot at pregnancy otherwise. “The hope is to be able to take the personal funding away from the equation, patients will be more comfortable with that tradeoff of maximizing health,” he says. “Hopefully with greater access there will be more healthy babies as a result."