Genetics

Medicare does not cover a key test done during pregnancy – but some say it should

From the day Jacinta Sirr-Williams discovered she was pregnant there was the usual run of doctors’ appointments, scans and blood tests – and, with them, came out-of-pocket costs.

But there was one test where she did not get a single cent back from Medicare. It’s called Non-Invasive Pre-natal Testing (NIPT) – or by one of its brand names, the Harmony test.

At $ 400 to $ 500, it’s one of the key out-of-pocket expenses faced by expectant parents.

“I did not realize the NIPT test was going to be $ 400. It was more than a surprise,” she said.

“That’s a barrier for a whole lot of people, especially when you’re buying baby things.”

NIPT is a blood test offered to many women about 10 weeks into their pregnancy.

It takes a sample of the mother’s blood, which contains fragments of DNA from the baby’s placenta, to detect three genetic conditions, including Down syndrome.

Many parents also use the test to find out the gender of their baby.

The ABC has previously reported controversies around this test because parents can feel pressured to terminate pregnancies if results suggest a baby may have a high risk of one of three genetic conditions.

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