Rep. Ayanna Pressley pushes for Medicare to cover wigs

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Rep. Ayanna Pressley pushes for Medicare to cover wigs

Unlike many private insurance plans, Medicare does not currently cover the cost of wigs. Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley would like to change that.

“[To] be bald as a woman really does disrupt conventional and societal norms of what is appropriate, what is professional, what is attractive, what is feminine,” Pressley — who has hair-loss causing autoimmune disease alopecia — told Vanity Fair in an interview Thursday. The same day, she unveiled a bill requiring Medicare to pay for wigs for those experiencing hair loss due to disease or medical treatments. 

“It’s so much more than cosmetic,” the Massachusetts congresswoman and “Squad” member said of being bald and female. “It takes a real toll.” 

The new bill is brought by Pressley and her Massachusetts House delegation colleague Rep. James McGovern, who first introduced the bill in 2018.

Ayanna Pressley
Rep. Ayanna Pressley attends a news conference on the Women’s Health Protection Act, outside of the US Capitol on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

“Doctors have told me that patients have refused lifesaving cancer treatments because they were afraid they were going to lose their hair and didn’t know how to deal with it,” the congressman told Vanity Fair.

His own 20-year-old daughter has been impacted by the dilemma, as she has a rare cancer diagnosis. “The thing she’s most worried about is having to go through chemotherapy,” he said. “Losing your hair at 20 — that’s really kind of a traumatic thing.” 

Rep. James McGovern first introduced the bill in 2018.
Rep. James McGovern first introduced the bill in 2018.
AFP via Getty Images

If passed, the pair’s bill would recategorize cranial prosthetics, the formal term for medical wigs, as durable medical equipment, making them eligible for coverage under the Social Security Act.

“It’s a simple legislative fix, and I think it’ll have a profound impact,” said Pressley, adding to Essence that the bill strives for solidarity, too.

“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,” she said. “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.” 

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