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Multiple fertility treatment methods to be covered by public insurance in Japan from April

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

TOKYO -- Multiple fertility treatment methods will be covered by Japan's public health insurance system from April, the Mainichi Shimbun learned on Jan. 25.

    The treatments to be 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 exclude preimplantation chromosome analysis, or screening out embryos with genetic abnormalities after IVF and before implantation in the woman's uterus.

    The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will present a health care fee revision proposal, including the range of fertility treatment to be covered under insurance, to the Central Social Insurance Medical Council, a ministerial advisory body, on Jan. 26. While there are some exceptions such as for ovulation drugs, fertility treatments are currently not covered by public health insurance, meaning hopeful parents must cover 100% of the often costly procedures. Approval will see their out-of-pocket expenses reduced to 30% of the total in principle.

    Other forms of assisted reproductive technology set to be covered include intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection -- injecting sperm directly into the egg under a microscope, early-stage egg retrieval, testicular sperm extraction, and embryo culture and transfer, as well as the freezing and storing of embryos for later use. People aged under 43 when the treatment starts will be eligible for public health insurance for a maximum of six attempts.

    Furthermore, the Japanese government is set to establish "general fertility treatment management fees" for artificial insemination and other treatments, as well as "assisted reproductive technology management fees" for conducting more advanced treatments including IVF and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection. The fee structures are needed because fertility treatment requires planned, continuous follow-ups. The fee plan will be reviewed once every six months as necessary, with the couple's consent.

    The health ministry will also discuss whether psychological and social support is necessary for patients during assisted reproductive technology treatment courses, and request that this kind of assistance be offered to couples.

    The health ministry decided to exclude preimplantation genetic testing after the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology said this month that public insurance coverage would be difficult. The society aims to apply for designated advanced medical care to make the procedure partly covered by insurance.

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

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