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June 9, 2023

Pressley, McGovern, Blumenthal Fight to Support Individuals Experiencing Medical Hair Loss

Re-Introduce Bill to Allow Medical Wigs to be Covered Under Medicare

Text of Bill (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), 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.

“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.”

“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 they 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.”

“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 Pressley and McGovern, 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.

A copy of the bill text can be found here.

Since revealing her alopecia diagnosis, Rep. Pressley has become a leading voice fighting to raise awareness and support for the alopecia community across the nation.

Rep. Pressley is a lead sponsor of the CROWN Act, legislation she led with Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Ilhan Omar (MN-05) that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. She delivered a passionate floor speech in support of the CROWN Act prior to its passage in the House in March 2022.

In May 2023, Reps. Pressley, Bonne Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), led their colleagues in introducing the Recognition of Traction Alopecia in Service Women Act of 2023.

In September 2021, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) led their colleagues in re-introducing the Wigs as Durable Medical Equipment Act, legislation to help individuals affected by Alopecia Areata and patients with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy by allowing medical wigs and other head coverings to be covered under the Medicare program.

In 2020, the House passed an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Pressley to provide $5 million dollars for the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to fund research on the causes, impacts, and possible treatments of Alopecia areata.