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‘Squad’ member pushing for Medicare to cover wigs, but critics warn it’s a slippery slope

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“Squad” member Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts is facing pushback over her efforts to lobby for Medicare to offer coverage for hair loss.

Introduced on Thursday by both Pressley and Massachusetts Rep. James P. McGovern, the Wigs as Durable Medical Equipment Act is designed “to help individuals affected by Alopecia Areata and patients with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy.”

Alopecia areata “is an autoimmune disease that has both a genetic predisposition and environmental triggers,” according to Lynne Goldberg, the director of the Hair Clinic at Boston Medical Center.

Goldberg spoke with The Brink, a publication of Boston University, last year following Pressley’s bombshell announcement that she suffers from this condition:

She admitted in the video that the hair atop her head was a wig and that she was finally “ready” to reveal her true self.

A year and a half later, she now seeks to empower other victims with the same option of being able to wear a wig until they’re ready.

“[T]o 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. It’s so much more than cosmetic…. It takes a real toll,” she said in an interview this week with Vanity Fair.

“It’s a simple legislative fix, and I think it’ll have a profound impact,” she added.

While that’s no doubt true, critics say it doesn’t justify using taxpayer money to subsidize wigs so that others may feel better about themselves.

The criticism fits along with the widely held belief that elective procedures — boob jobs, liposuction, tummy tucks, facelifts, butt lifts, “The Ivanka,” etc. — aren’t medically necessary procedures.

Critics also note the lack of coverage for far more useful elective products and services such as hearing aids, which neither Medicare parts A nor B reportedly cover.

Last but not least, critics also point out that plenty of organizations throughout the states distribute wigs for free.

A press release published alongside the bill Thursday tried to preempt this criticism by claiming “[m]any private insurance plans cover wigs for those undergoing treatments that cause hair loss or who are affected by alopecia areata.”

While that may be the case, Medicare isn’t private insurance …

The press release also contained a statement from the congresswoman.

“Since I first revealed my alopecia diagnosis, I’ve been intentional about creating space and creating community for those of us who have medical conditions that impact our hair – and this bill is a continuation of those efforts. 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. I am grateful to my friend Congressman McGovern for his partnership on this deeply personal and critical legislation,” she added.

Other critics meanwhile have accused the congresswoman of corruption, though, in fairness to her, they’ve offered no evidence to substantiate this theory.

The only good news for the critics is that the bill likely stands very little chance of making it into law.

It’d need to make it through a House currently focused on other matters and a Senate whose Republican leader has the finest set of hair on this side of the Mississippi and thus probably isn’t too concerned about alopecia.

(Source: U.S. Senate)
Vivek Saxena

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