Hungarian families hoping to have a baby are celebrating a new policy that will provide fertility treatment, but opponents say the state is driving private clinics out of the market for its own economic benefit.
The strategy is the latest move by Prime Minister Viktor Orban to combat declining population in Hungary.
Orban, a right-wing nationalist who opposes immigration, prefers supporting families and encouraging more births as a strategy to deal with the decades-long decline in Hungary’s population. The state acquired six of the ten private fertility clinics in the country and raised the public care subsidy from 90 per cent to 100 per cent.
Couples like TV presenter Zita Pataki and her partner Attila Szarnyas are welcoming him. They attempted to have a baby for six years, and completed ten IVF tests.
“We wanted to have a child together.
“This idea helped us through the hardships we went through, this gave us the momentum to keep trying again and again,” Zita says.
Since then, the couple have given up on fertility treatment but have turned their attention to helping and supporting other couples who fail to conceive. We have a cause-specific YouTube channel that provides information about the biological and therapeutic aspects of fertility treatment, as well as guidance on nutritional and lifestyle habits.
Zita supports the new policy, which she says will really help couples.
“A round of IVF is difficult to finance on your salary. And often, the first round does not work.”
Gabriella Lantos, health policy analyst, says the programme has political and economic impetus.
“This is a vote-buying action. It sounds very good, we will help you to get children which is your biggest love.
“So we [the Government] will help you, and we will help ourselves to get a vast amount of money because it’s a very good business.”
Fertility treatment is indeed a lucrative undertaking-one round of IVF costs about $3200USD. The policy will only last for two years but Lantos says private competition will be eliminated by the end of that period and the government will be able to sell the clinics for a tidy profit.
Budapest’s Róbert Károly Private Hospital is one of four remaining private fertility clinics.
Lantos, the hospital’s former director, says institutes like this one are at risk of being pushed out of the fertility market because if their treatments are not funded by the government, patients will lose out.
“The private institutes will go bankrupt, because nobody will choose them.”
Women over 45 years of age and lesbian couples are not eligible for government-subsidized care, and private clinics can have to be used.
Yet Lantos claims such patients are the minority, which will not be enough to keep private clinics alive. She’s also concerned about the health risk of allowing women to have five or more free IVF sessions, as many countries only allow women to have three doses.
“It’s a dangerous procedure because of the big amount of hormone injection.”
Despite the stated purpose of the policy to boost the population, it is expected to add up to the 90-thousand births each year in Hungary only 2000.