Govt Aims to Have Insurance Cover Expenses for Childbirth

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government has started talks to extend the public medical insurance to cover childbirth-related expenses in the future, sources said Tuesday.

Normal delivery is currently not covered by the public insurance, under which patients pay 30% of their medical costs out of their own pocket in principle, because neither pregnancy nor childbirth is considered a type of illness.

To reduce household costs related to childbirth, Japan pays ¥420,000 in childbirth allowances per baby, with the amount set to rise to ¥500,000 from April.

The allowances, however, have not been enough to cover entire childbirth expenses in many cases for those giving birth in and around Tokyo.

Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had proposed the idea of eliminating the household financial burden by giving insurance coverage to childbirth and covering the out-of-pocket expenses entirely with state subsidies.

The government is expected to include the insurance coverage of childbirth in a draft of measures to tackle Japan’s chronically low birthrate to be announced Friday.

The draft will be drawn up after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed to implement “unprecedented measures” to counter the country’s declining birthrate.

The draft is also expected to include measures to scrap the income cap on child benefits and raise the eligibility age limit of the benefits to 18, as well as fresh housing aid for young couples and expansion of child care leave benefits.