Medicare Rebates For Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT)
25 October 2021
25 October 2021
Australians who are carriers of significant genetic conditions and are planning a pregnancy will finally get access to more affordable preimplantation genetic testing of their embryos from 1 November 2021, when this type of testing will be added to the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
The Federal Government announced it was investing $95.9 million for preimplantation genetic testing in the May Budget, as part of an overall package aimed at “improving long-term health outcomes for women and girls” across Australia.
As an obstetrician-gynaecologist and genetic pathologist this is a policy shift that I and my genetics colleagues have been campaigning for on behalf of patients for many years.
The new subsidy for preimplantation genetic testing is an important step in supporting women’s health and providing better reproductive options for families.
Preimplantation genetic testing involves the testing of embryos for significant genetic conditions that could affect the health of the child or their health in adult life. In the past, individuals and couples who carry genetic conditions have had to pay a significant out-of-pocket cost to test their embryos if they wished to reduce their chance of passing genetic conditions on to their future children.
While the IVF component of this treatment has previously been funded by the Medicare Benefits Schedule, this funding did not include preimplantation genetic testing. This has meant that preimplantation genetic testing has been inaccessible to many families.
Preimplantation testing is an exceptionally important medical treatment that gives women and couples the option of testing embryos for genetic conditions that they may carry, such as Fragile X syndrome or cystic fibrosis, or may personally be affected by, such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
Australia is now one of the first countries in the world to have this treatment broadly supported by the Government and the health system. It’s extremely forward thinking.
When people are planning a pregnancy, they need to be aware that there is a chance that one or both of them might be carriers of a significant genetic condition, even if there is no family history of a genetic condition.
By undergoing reproductive genetic carrier screening, they may identify that they have a high chance of having a child with a significant genetic condition. In my experience, around one in 40 couples will find out that they are in this situation.
For individuals and couples who find themselves in this situation, the government funding will make a big difference by supporting their care and keeping this option available.
Preimplantation embryo testing is a mature technology and it has become obvious that more and more people could benefit from it. This will be a significant help to a lot of people.
Dr Tristan Hardy is the Medical Director of Genetics at Monash IVF and an expert in preimplantation genetic testing. He is an obstetrician, gynaecologist, genetic pathologist and fertility specialist at Monash IVF’s sister clinic, Repromed. You can learn more about Dr Tristan