Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley says that Medicare should cover the cost of wigs for those experiencing hair loss due to medical treatments or disease.
The bill was presented on the last day of Alopecia Awareness Month.
“[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 told Vanity Fair. “It’s so much more than cosmetic. It takes a real toll.”
Last January, Pressley revealed in a video that she has a condition called alopecia and is now bald.
“This is about acceptance,” Pressley said of her decision to discuss her baldness publicly. “I hope this starts a conversation about the personal struggles we navigate, and I hope that it creates awareness about how many people are impacted by alopecia.”
It is estimated that a third to a half of all Black women experience some hair loss in their lifetime — although not all hair loss is permanent. Many people who have alopecia can suffer anxiety, depression and reduced self-esteem.
Pressley says that cancer patients sometimes refuse to undergo treatment for fear of going bald.
“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,” she told the publication.
The bill would recategorize cranial prosthetics, the formal name for medical wigs, as durable medical equipment. They would become 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. “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.”