WASHINGTON—Today, Massachusetts Congressman James P. McGovern (MA-02) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), alongside Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) announced that they are reintroducing the Wigs as Durable Medical Equipment Act, legislation to help individuals affected by Alopecia and patients with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy.
Many private insurance plans cover wigs for those undergoing treatments that cause hair loss or who are affected by alopecia areata. This bill would allow cranial prosthetics (wigs) to be covered under the Medicare program.
“For people impacted by Alopecia or undergoing cancer treatment, a wig can make all the difference in the world. It can provide them with the confidence and courage the need to get back to normal during a challenging time,” said Rep. McGovern. “But wigs can cost thousands of dollars, and despite the enormous and clear benefits they provide, Medicare doesn’t currently cover them. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and I think that needs to change. Bottom line, this bill is about making sure everyone can live their lives with dignity and confidence, regardless of their diagnosis. We’re reintroducing this bill to ensure that folks who are impacted by hair loss have access to the treatment options they need.”
“Whether someone is living with Alopecia, battling cancer, or suffering from other forms of traumatic hair loss, the option to wear a wig should be affordable and accessible,” said Rep. Pressley. “As someone living with Alopecia, I know the mental and emotional toll it can take on our everyday lives, and relieving the financial burden of accessing medical wigs is an important step towards creating space for those impacted by medical hair loss. This bill is responsive to those needs, and I am proud to reintroduce this bill with my friend Congressman McGovern. Everyone deserves dignity and access.”
“Medicare recipients struggling with hair loss shouldn’t have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to look and feel their best,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Our measure expands coverage to ensure wigs are accessible and affordable for all patients dealing with cancer, alopecia, or other medical conditions – giving them the self-assurance and comfort they deserve.”
For both McGovern and Pressley, the issue is deeply personal. In 2019, Rep. Pressley revealed in a powerful video that she had been diagnosed with Alopecia Universalis, an auto-immune disease which attacks the hair follicles. Since then, she has championed policies in Congress that support and express solidarity with the nearly 7 million Americans living with alopecia. In a 2021 interview with Vanity Fair, McGovern revealed that his thinking on this issue has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis in his own family.
With no known cause or cure, Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune skin disease affecting approximately 6.9 million Americans. The disease disproportionately affects children and Black Americans, particularly Black women. Many individuals affected by Alopecia Areata utilize wigs as there are currently few effective treatment options. Unfortunately, these prosthetics can come with a significant out-of-pocket cost from $100 to several thousand dollars for individuals with low or fixed incomes. This is especially burdensome for children, who often want cranial prosthetics for attending school.
The bill is also co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).