To support births, Chinese capital Beijing adds fertility services to insurance coverage

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Children play next to adults at a park in Beijing, China June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

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BEIJING, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Beijing will include more than a dozen fertility services in a government-backed medical insurance scheme for the Chinese capital, state media reported on Monday, supporting those seeking to have babies with China's birth rate at a record low.

A total of 16 medical services using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) will be covered by the city's state insurance effective from March 26, in a move to "take proactive fertility support measures", according to the Beijing Daily.

The new reproductive coverage could help lower out-of-pocket costs and benefit couples in lower income brackets seeking to have babies and those with little or no access to private medical insurance.

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Official data showed China's birth rate dropped to a record low in 2021, extending a downward trend that led the national government last year to begin allowing couples to have up to three children. read more

China will work towards achieving an "appropriate" birth rate, Premier Li Keqiang said at the start of the annual parliamentary meeting in March last year.

China faces what experts call a "demographic time-bomb" as its elderly population increases while its workforce gets smaller due to decreasing births, partly due to a one-child policy in place for about four decades before being scrapped in 2016.

China will raise the statutory retirement age "in a phased manner", Li said last year.

The eastern province of Jiangsu said last month that starting from March, employees eligible for state pensions will be able to apply for delayed retirement for no less than one year from the statutory retirement age.

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Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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