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House Speaker Pelosi Holds News Conference On Women's Health Protection Act

Source: Bloomberg / Getty

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is a woman who has been open about her experience with hair loss due to alopecia and shortly after, made the bold decision to wear her baldie proudly as she represented her state of Massachusetts in Congress. Now, Pressley has introduced a bill that would help all people struggling with hair loss due to medical reasons, urging private insurance plans like Medicare to cover the cost of wigs.

“[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 in an interview Thursday. Later that same day, she unveiled the bill that would require 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 explained of what it’s like being bald and female. “It takes a real toll.”

She continued by sharing how some patients actually refuse care because they’re scared of experiencing extreme hair loss, telling the magazine that “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 new bill was brought to Congress by Pressley and her Massachusetts House delegation colleague Rep. James McGovern, whose own 20-year-old daughter has also been impacted by hair loss due to a rare cancer diagnosis. “The thing she’s most worried about is having to go through chemotherapy,” Rep. McGovern told the magazine. “Losing your hair at 20 — that’s really kind of a traumatic thing.”

If passed, the bill would recategorize medical wigs as durable medical equipment which would then make them eligible for coverage under the Social Security Act.

“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 told Essence. “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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