Govt mulls age limit for fertility treatment covered by health insurance

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A fertility procedure is performed in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, in September 2020.

The government is considering making 43 the age limit for women who receive fertility treatment under public health insurance from April next year, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to propose the age limit at a meeting of the Central Social Insurance Medical Council on Wednesday, according to sources.

No age limit will be proposed for men.

Legally married couples and common-law partners would be eligible under the ministry’s proposal.

Women younger than 40 at the start of the treatment would be able to have up to six cycles of treatment per child, while women aged 40-42 at the start of the treatment would be able to have up to three rounds, based on the fact that the probability of a successful treatment decreases with a woman’s age.

The specific examinations and treatments that will be covered by health insurance — such as in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination — will be decided based on the guidelines of the Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Regarding preimplantation genetic screening, which examines all the chromosomes of embryos created through in vitro fertilization, the ministry will address the issue separately based on discussions of related medical societies.

The ministry intends to exclude from the health insurance coverage treatment such as improved technologies for achieving pregnancy via eggs or sperms donated by third parties, because of ongoing Diet debates regarding the right to know in artificial insemination treatment involving donors.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The ministry is considering setting standards for medical institutions that offer fertility treatment under the health insurance system. Medical fees for specific fertility treatments will be decided at the Central Social Insurance Medical Council as early as the beginning of next year.

Health insurance coverage for fertility treatment is one of the government’s key measures against the nation’s declining birth rate.

The government wants a system in place at the start of fiscal 2022.

According to the World Health Organization, infertility is diagnosed if couples fail to get pregnant after at least 12 months of trying to conceive naturally.

It could be caused by several factors, in either the male or female reproductive systems.

According to a 2015 survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, one in 5.5 couples in Japan has received examinations or treatments for infertility.