askST: Can subsidies for fertility treatment in Singapore be increased and age limit raised?

Readers Rahimah Rahmat and Tham Lai Yee wrote in to ask about subsidies for assisted reproduction technology (ART) treatment in Singapore.

Currently, couples can receive up to 75 per cent in co-funding for this treatment, for up to three fresh and three frozen cycles. However, they must be under 40 at the start of the cycle.

Ms Rahimah asked if the government could consider raising the age limit for co-funding, while Ms Tham said that they should consider increasing the number of subsidised cycles.

"With more and more couples tying the knot and having children later in life, why is there an age limit to government co-funding?" Ms Rahimah asked. "This seems contradictory to the government's push for Singaporeans to have more babies."

Health reporter Linette Lai got the answers.

In response to questions from The Straits Times, the Health Ministry said that it set its age limit for ART treatment based on scientific evidence. The numbers show that ART is typically successful in more than 25 per cent of woman aged 35 and below.

However, for women aged between 35 and 40, it drops to just over 15 per cent. When a woman is above 40, success rates are somewhere between 6.1 to 6.7 per cent.

"The scheme is meant to encourage couples with difficulty conceiving to seek treatment early and hence focuses on those who start their cycle before they turn 40," a ministry spokesman said.

"We will continue to monitor the evidence and update the eligibility criteria where appropriate."

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor also said in Parliament earlier this month that the ministry is unlikely to increase the number of funded cycles.

"When we review the age at which we capped ART co-funding, really it is based on evidence," she said. "As shown from statistics, the success rates actually drop drastically after age 35.

"We will continue to see what the success rates are, before we consider whether we can extend (them). But at this point in time, there is no decision to extend this age limit."