Several fertility treatment methods will be covered by public insurance in Japan from April

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This file photo shows a building housing Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO – Several fertility treatment methods will be covered by Japan’s public health insurance system from April, the Mainichi Shimbun learned on January 25.

Treatments covered include artificial insemination – injecting sperm into the uterus during ovulation and in vitro fertilization – fertilizing a woman’s eggs with sperm in a laboratory dish. However, the government will rule out preimplantation chromosome analysis or screening of embryos with genetic abnormalities after IVF and before implantation in the woman’s womb.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will submit a proposal to revise health care costs, including the range of fertility treatments to be covered by insurance, to the Central Social Insurance Medical Board, a ministerial advisory body, 26 January. With a few exceptions like ovulation medication, fertility treatments are currently not covered by public health insurance, which means expectant parents must cover 100% of the often expensive procedures. Approval will see their disbursements reduced to 30% of the total in principle.

Other forms of assisted reproductive technology should be covered, including intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection – injecting sperm directly into the egg under a microscope, early stage egg retrieval, extraction of testicular sperm, embryo culture and transfer, and freezing and storing embryos for later use. People under the age of 43 at the start of treatment will be eligible for public health insurance for up to six attempts.

In addition, the Japanese government is set to establish a “general fertility treatment management fee” for artificial insemination and other treatments, as well as an “assisted reproductive technology management fee” for conduct of more advanced treatments, including IVF and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection. Fee structures are necessary because fertility treatment requires planned and ongoing follow-ups. The tariff plan will be revised once every six months if necessary, with the consent of the couple.

The Ministry of Health will also discuss the need for psychological and social support for patients during assisted reproduction treatment courses and request that such assistance be offered to couples.

The Health Ministry decided to rule out preimplantation genetic testing after the Japanese Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology said this month that public insurance coverage would be difficult. The company aims to seek designated advanced medical care so that the procedure is partially covered by insurance.

(Japanese original by Shunsuke Kamiashi, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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