It’s been more than two years since Representatives James McGovern and David Schweikert introduced a bipartisan bill that would see to it that wigs would be covered by Medicare for people undergoing treatments that cause hair loss, like chemotherapy, or those who are affected by alopecia, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own hair follicles and can lead to partial or total hairlessness. H.R. 3332, however, stalled in Congress — that is until Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley brought her first-person experience and advocacy to the table to join McGovern in reintroducing the bill.
The bill, known as the Wigs as Durable Medical Equipment Act, was reintroduced on Friday, October 1. It recognizes that, while some private insurance companies cover the cost of cranial prosthetics, the often-expensive wigs are not covered by Medicare, leaving many low- and fixed-income patients without the resources they need — something with benefits that go far beyond cosmetic.
“Every person living with alopecia, battling cancer, or facing another medical condition that leads to hair loss should be able to access wigs and other head coverings. Our bill is responsive and sends a powerful message to these communities: We see you, you belong, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Pressley said in a statement released by McGovern’s office. In January 2020, Pressley revealed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia areata, which had left her completely bald. “Since I first revealed my alopecia diagnosis, I’ve been intentional about creating space and creating community for those of us who have medical conditions that impact our hair — and this bill is a continuation of those efforts.”
Pressley said that, for his partnership on this legislation, she is grateful to McGovern, who added that a wig can make all the difference in the world to people impacted by alopecia or cancer treatment. “But wigs can cost thousands of dollars, and despite the enormous and clear benefits they provide, they are not currently covered by programs like Medicare,” he said. “Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and I think that needs to change, and we are introducing this important new bill to ensure equitable access to wigs and extend dignity and respect to folks who are impacted by Alopecia or who are undergoing cancer treatment.”
Representative Mike Quigley joins Pressley and McGovern on the bill, which proposes to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act. The full text of the bill can be found here.
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