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Japan considering infertility care subsidies for small businesses

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japantimes– The government is considering creating a subsidy program for small companies to help them provide better support for employees receiving infertility treatment, according to informed sources.

The government hopes that the new program will encourage small companies to establish ways for employees receiving treatment to take leave and receive other support for infertility treatment from fiscal 2021, the sources said.

According to the health ministry, 16% of people who have received infertility treatment quit their jobs as it became too difficult to balance their work with the therapy.

People undergoing infertility treatment sometimes need to abruptly change medical appointments depending on their physical conditions. In some cases, they also need to visit the hospital on consecutive days.

As part of efforts to tackle the country’s aging population, the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is working on expanding the public insurance coverage for infertility treatment, while creating a better workplace environment for people receiving such therapy.

The Suga government aims to support people who want to receive infertility treatment by providing subsidies to small companies that create a work environment that allows their employees to easily make time for receiving such care.

Specifically, the government expects the program to encourage more companies to introduce a paid leave system allowing their employees to take half a day off or excuse themselves from work on an hourly basis for infertility treatment, the sources said. Other support measures are likely to include the introduction of staggered commuting and flexible work-time programs.

The government also plans to call on companies to include in their action programs for addressing the low birthrate a support program designed to help their employees balance infertility treatment with their work. Companies with 101 or more employees are obliged to compile such action programs under the law on measures to support the development of future generations.

In October, the health ministry and the Cabinet Office established a team to consider ways to create a better environment for workers who receive infertility treatment. The team plans to include support measures for small companies in its interim report to be compiled at the end of this year.

After deciding details of the envisaged subsidy program, the government plans to earmark necessary costs in its fiscal 2021 budget proposal.

From April 2022, meanwhile, the government plans to expand public health insurance coverage for infertility treatment.

The government plans to expand the insurance coverage to include expensive treatment such as in vitro fertilization and microinsemination as part of fiscal 2022 revisions of government-administered medical service fees, the sources said.

Until then, the government will substantially boost its existing subsidies for such treatment to help couples who wish to have children, according to the sources.

The government also aims to expand the insurance coverage to include infertility treatment for men.

The Central Social Insurance Medical Council, which advises the health minister, is set to start discussions on details of the proposed insurance coverage expansion around summer next year, based on the results of an ongoing health ministry survey on infertility treatment and medical practice guidelines to be compiled by related academic societies, the sources said.

The panel plans to devise a system that would allow people to have a variety of options, such as simultaneously receiving treatment covered by health insurance and advanced medical services that are not.

Currently, the government offers up to ¥300,000 in subsidies for the first round of infertility treatment and up to ¥150,000 for the second and later sessions.

Until the start of the expanded insurance coverage, the government plans to boost the payment for second and later sessions to ¥300,000. It is also considering allowing people undergoing infertility treatment to receive the aid for up to six sessions for each child. Currently, subsidies are offered for a total of six sessions per recipient.

In addition, the government is making arrangements to scrap the income cap for receiving the subsidies, currently set at less than ¥7.3 million for the combined incomes of both spouses.