House, Senate Democrats Want Insurance to Cover Wigs for Kids

Better access needed for kids with hair loss from medical conditions, illness
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

LANSING — State Reps. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) and Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), along with state Sens. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation to require health insurance companies and Medicaid to cover wigs for children who suffer hair loss due to medical conditions or treatments for medical conditions. The bills being introduced in the House and Senate are identical. The legislation also has the support of Maggie Varney, Founder and CEO of Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan.

“Insurance companies cover all kinds of prosthetics, but they don’t all cover the costs of a wig that is as important to a child’s recovery and self-esteem as any other prosthetic,” said Hertel, the sponsor of House Bill 4358. “While there are a number of groups that do amazing work to provide kids with wigs, these groups can’t be everywhere, and parents can’t always take their child to the organization. It’s time we require insurance to provide coverage for wigs so that no child who needs one has to go without.”

“These children suffering from a condition that causes hair loss are also sometimes the victims of bullying, which just makes their situation that much worse,” said Bieda, the sponsor of Senate Bill 234. “A wig can make all the difference in the world in a child’s outlook and attitude, but the cost can be prohibitive for many families. That’s why in these cases it’s just common sense to have insurance coverage for wigs for kids.”        

The legislation would mandate that insurers provide coverage for human or synthetic hair replacements to children under the age of 19 who have experienced hair loss as the result of a medical condition or the treatment of a medical condition. The bill also mandates that insurance coverage for wigs cannot be less than coverage offered for any other prosthesis. A number of organizations in Michigan provide wigs, hair care products and other support free of charge to thousands of children every year suffering from hair loss, but these organizations still have to cover the costs of the wigs and products they provide.

“My group and others like it can’t keep up with the need, and unfortunately, we can’t reach all of the kids in Michigan who need wigs,” said Varney. “This legislation will ensure that more children can have the wigs they need to help them feel better about themselves.”

“Wigs can be expensive, with prices ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands and that can put a wig out of reach for a family already dealing with the out-of-pocket costs of an illness or a medical condition,” said Hoadley, the sponsor of House Bill 4357. “That is why, in addition to requiring insurance companies to cover wigs for kids, we also need Medicaid to cover this cost as well. No child should go without just because their parents don’t have insurance through their job. We need to make sure all of our children are covered regardless of family income.”

"Hair loss can be devastating to children who are dealing with significant medical challenges, and we should support both their physical and emotional well-being as they go through treatment," said Warren, the sponsor of Senate Bill 235. "I look forward to support from both sides of the aisle and in both legislative chambers so that we can help out these courageous kids and their families."