TOKYO — For the first time, Japan is trying to hold down the number of bed-bound elderly people kept alive, sometimes for years, by feeding tubes.

Following news articles by Bloomberg News and others, the government is planning to cut payouts on insertions in new patients and encourage home care. About a quarter-million Japanese elderly live on feeding tubes.

The health ministry also plans to boost reimbursements to institutions that check swallowing ability and encourage rehabilitation to help the bedridden eat by mouth. The changes, effective April 1, mark the first time Japan has cut government reimbursements for the practice.

“Eating is one of the most important human dignities and the country is moving forward to protect it,” said Kazuhiro Nagao, a doctor and deputy director of the Japan Society for Dying with Dignity.

The use of feeding tubes at the end of life, which isn’t standard practice in the western world, is common in Japan, the world’s fastest aging society.