WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives to help patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. Most private insurance plans already cover wigs for those undergoing treatment that causes hair loss. The bill would help cancer patients on Medicare, who are undergoing treatments, to pay for wigs not currently covered.
“Every cancer patient deserves access to quality healthcare that will help them undergo treatment with the support and dignity they need. For cancer patients who experience hair loss, a wig can mean so much, but is not always covered by their insurance,” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said. “This bill will help to change that and ensure that every cancer patient who loses their hair can afford a wig and undergo treatment with the dignity and respect they deserve. I urge all of my colleagues in Congress to support this important bill.”
Congressman McGovern’s bill was inspired by a meeting with Mary Aframe, who runs the Women’s Image Center located in Worcester and Leominster. The Women’s Image Center helps promote confidence in women undergoing image changes related to cancer treatment. Aframe has worked tirelessly to help raise awareness about the many women undergoing chemotherapy who have trouble affording wigs. Aframe said she has heard from many women who are looking for a wig due to hair loss after cancer treatment – specifically breast cancer. Many are on Medicare and struggle to afford a wig, sometimes even choosing different treatment paths to avoid hair loss.
According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. Nationally, expenditures for cancer care totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010. In 2017 alone, Massachusetts is expected to see 37,000 new cases of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
“This bill is so desperately needed. A wig is not only medically necessary as a part of a woman's physical recovery, but also for the emotional recovery that comes with going through cancer treatment, said Mary Aframe. “Feeling confident in your new skin during and post treatment is paramount to overcoming the challenges and changes women face after a cancer diagnosis”
Most private insurance plans already cover wigs for patients undergoing cancer treatments. Congressman McGovern’s bill would re-categorize wigs as durable medical equipment to allow Medicare to provide coverage if a doctor certifies that they are medically necessary. Wigs can cost thousands of dollars and are out of reach for many patients without help from their insurance provider.
The new bill, H.R. 2925, has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means, where it awaits further consideration.