How to Get Insurance to Pay for Cancer Wigs

Most health insurance providers consider “cranial prostheses” to be an essential part of chemotherapy treatment. Coverage may be partial, however.

Treatment for cancer does not necessarily involve hair loss. Certainly not as much as it used to. But breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy almost all have some degree of hair loss. When it happens, it’s good to know which local hair loss treatment clinic has expertise cancer-related hair loss solutions.

For some, the chic bravery of a shaved head makes a statement. That may be due to the patient having great facial features that might even stand out better with a shaved head. Actresses with shorn tresses for important roles include Sigourney Weaver (Alien 3), Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta), and Cate Blanchett (Heaven). Portman actually kept her look for a long time after the movie was made and released.

For when a full head of hair matters

But that particular look is not for everyone – not every day for all occasions, at least. Does a mother-of-the-bride want her daughter’s big day to include a focus on her shaved head? Under some circumstances, a full head of hair not only changes the social dynamic but also helps the patient leave the concerns for her health in the background. Cancer doesn’t have to be a 24/7 topic of conversation.

The cost of a wig can range from fifty to thousands of dollars. The differences are about quality of construction, whether or not human hair is used (there are healthy humans who sell their hair), and even the hairstyle (as one might expect, longer and fuller hair styles cost more). One characteristic of better-constructed wigs is if the outer edge of the cap has one to two inches of fine lace fabric. That creates a more natural appearance.

So who needs the expense of a wig when other healthcare costs and a possible reduction of income is part of cancer treatment? Fortunately, there are ways to reduce and even eliminate the cost of wig when undergoing chemotherapy – including by reimbursement from your health insurance provider.

Insurance and cancer support groups to the rescue

First, ask your doctor to provide a prescription for a “cranial prosthesis” or “hair prosthesis.” Yes, it sounds clinical. But this has to do with not only your mental health, but if having a full head of hair means getting up and going places, that increases your physical activity and sense of wellbeing. Importantly, those are the words that most insurance plans recognize.

Next, you probably will need to buy the wig on the promise from your insurer that you will be compensated in part or in whole. It helps to call first, and if so keep a written record (perhaps with a follow-up email, if possible) that confirms what the customer service person at the insurance company says. Importantly, keep all paperwork (prescription, receipts, completed insurance claim form, all related correspondence) in case there is pushback on your claim.

Any amount not paid for by your insurance company might become an insurance deduction. Current tax codes allow medical deductions when out-of-pocket expenses exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.

If that doesn’t work, there are many cancer non-profits that provide wigs and wig exchanges for free or at steep discounts. This is a laudable effort in the circular economy, where people who no longer need the wigs they bought during their treatment then donate them to the organization, which then cleans and preps them for the next person to use. Contact the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Wigs and Wishes or other similar organizations for more information.

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