Health funds, new TCM treatments target infertility

Updated: Feb 6, 2023 By Wang Xiaoyu Print
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The photo shows a medical worker holding China's first test-tube baby with a low risk of inheriting type-2 diabetes from his family at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University in Shanghai, Aug 2, 2022. [Photo provided to]

The National Healthcare Security Administration said recently that it will gradually add assisted fertility treatment and pain relief services during labor to the medical reimbursement list to help assist with the financial burden shouldered by couples dealing with infertility.

It added that traditional Chinese medicine hospitals are also encouraged to provide assisted reproductive services to families in need, and that TCM approaches to treating infertility will be promoted nationwide.

The administration made the comments in response to proposals by national political advisers that centered on making fertility services more accessible as the country seeks to encourage births to counter a shrinking population and a rapidly-aging society.

According to the response, which was made available on the administration's official website on Friday, some drugs designed to stimulate ovulation have already been included in the national reimbursement program, in an effort to boost access to them.

In a guideline jointly released by the administration and 16 other government departments in August, authorities are to encourage localities to include pain relief services and assisted fertility treatment in local reimbursement programs according to the capacity of their medical funds.

Beijing became one of the first cities to offer reimbursement for 16 medical services associated with assisted reproductive technology through its healthcare fund on March 26.

However, the administration said that uneven development across regions is hampering coverage at the national level.

"Due to different circumstances in social and economic development and medical consumption, as well as different levels of aging in various parts of China, the regional disparity in the capacity of funds is wide," it said.

It added that while a few provinces and cities in southern coastal areas have a surplus of funds, many regions in central and western parts are under pressure to meet reimbursement demands.

A cycle of regular in vitro fertilization procedures usually costs around 20,000 yuan ($3,150) and it can take as many as six cycles for candidates to successfully become pregnant.

The National Health Commission said that about 7 to 10 percent of women of childbearing age in China are infertile. While 80 to 90 percent only need to change their lifestyle or take medication to increase their chances of having a baby, the remainder require assisted reproduction.

According to one reply on the administration's website, China's health and TCM authorities are also encouraging TCM hospitals to set up departments for fertility services and are devising TCM diagnosis and treatment plans devoted to tackling infertility.

By 2025, every province should set up at least two TCM studios at maternity and child care institutions and each one should have with at least 10 TCM professionals.

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