2022-05-20 12:04:37

Many provinces are planning to cover fertility treatments under their local medical insurance schemes in an attempt to boost the country’s plummeting birth rate, domestic outlet Yicai reported Thursday.

The city of Xianning in the central Hubei province became the latest to roll out such measures Monday, as authorities announced a 10,000 yuan ($1,500) reimbursement for women over 35 undergoing an assisted reproductive technology procedure.

The policy followed in the footsteps of Beijing, as the Chinese capital announced 16 assisted reproductive technologies under its public medical insurance scheme in February. However, the city later postponed its decision to implement the policy, citing compliance with national regulations.

Such measures to encourage births — including enacting the three-child policy and doling out various benefits to support families — come at a time when the country recorded its lowest birth rate last year since its founding in 1949.

Meanwhile, the national infertility rate has also increased from 12% to 18% from 2007 to 2020, a level similar to that in many high-income nations, according to an article published by the medical journal The Lancet last year. However, a survey showed that only 1.2% of infertile couples had received an assisted reproductive technology procedure in 2018 compared with a relatively higher number in higher-income countries.

Dong Yuzheng, a demographer at Guangdong Academy of Population Development, told Yicai that including assisted reproductive technologies in insurance schemes will provide more support for pregnant women in receiving medical services and alleviate the economic burden on families.

Earlier this month, health authorities in the eastern Zhejiang province said they will set up standards for adding certain assisted reproductive technologies “in due course,” according to Yicai. Authorities in the central Hunan and southwestern Sichuan provinces have also expressed willingness to include assisted reproductive technologies in their medical insurance schemes.

But hefty costs associated with such procedures have often made local governments reluctant to include assisted reproductive technologies in their medical schemes. Though authorities in Beijing didn’t cite financial costs for the postponement, officials in Henan province said in February that the province couldn’t afford costly assisted reproductive technology procedures.

Zhang, a 26-year-old from Chongqing who only gave her surname for privacy concerns, told Sixth Tone that she had already spent over 40,000 yuan on a second-generation IVF procedure this year and became pregnant only after lengthy treatments. She said the financial burden and low success rate discourage many women from doing so.

“I hope we can gain more help from the government,” Zhang said. “We all have strong desires for having our own kid, but we can’t contribute towards an increased population without better support.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)