Does Medicare Cover Wigs for Cancer Patients?
- If you're receiving cancer treatment and have had hair loss, you may want to know: does Medicare cover wigs for cancer patients? Learn your coverage options.
If you or a loved one are facing hair loss or thinning due to cancer treatments, wigs can help create a sense of normalcy, boosting morale during the recovery process. Because a high-quality wig can be costly, Medicare beneficiaries undergoing cancer treatment may ask, "Does Medicare cover wigs for cancer patients?" Although the answer is typically no for beneficiaries who have Medicare Parts A and B, there may be other ways for cancer patients to finance the cost of a wig.
Does Medicare Cover Wigs for Cancer Patients?
Because Medicare considers wigs to be cosmetic, they aren't covered under Original Medicare Part A or B, even with a doctor's prescription. However, beneficiaries who've opted for a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan may have coverage options, depending on the terms of their policy.
Advantage plans, which may be referred to as Medicare Part C, are purchased through private insurers and often have benefits beyond what Original Medicare covers. If you have a MA plan, check your policy's terms and conditions to see if wigs are covered for cancer patients, and if so, what your share cost would be. You may also obtain this information by contacting the insurance company directly.
How Can I Get My Insurance to Pay for a Wig?
If you have Medicare Advantage or private insurance that covers wigs for cancer patients, your plan probably has specific rules governing reimbursement. In many cases, you'll be expected to pay for the wig up front and then submit a claim to your insurer for reimbursement.
To make sure you'll recover the costs of purchasing a wig, you may want to follow a few basic guidelines:
- Check the terms of your insurance policy or call a company representative to learn what steps you'll need to take to be reimbursed through your insurance.
- Get a prescription from your oncologist or another physician. Make sure it includes all the details your insurer requires. Prescriptions should refer to wigs using medically appropriate terminology, such as: cranial prosthesis, hair prosthesis, cranial hair prosthesis or extra-cranial prosthesis.
- Unless your policy permits out-of-network supply purchases, shop for your wig at a supplier that's approved by your insurance company.
- If the supplier doesn't bill the insurer directly, submit a claim for reimbursement to your insurance provider in the timeframe specified in your plan's terms. Be sure to include a copy of the prescription and original receipt along with the completed claim form.
- Make sure the diagnosis code on the claim form is for cancer or another illness that results in hair loss.
- Keep a record of everything you've submitted. If the claim is lost, you'll easily be able to resubmit, and if payment is denied, you may be able to deduct the cost as a medical expense on your tax return.
Where Can I Purchase a Wig?
If you're living with hair loss or thinning caused by treatments for cancer or other serious illnesses, there are several places you can purchase high-quality wigs in a variety of colors, lengths and styles:
- Wig shops: Your hospital's cancer center or an organization specializing in helping cancer patients should be able to direct you to reputable nearby wig shops. These stores typically feature a multitude of styles at various price points, which you can browse through and try on. At a wig shop, you should also be able to consult with knowledgeable stylists and get fitted for a high-quality wig.
- Wig specialists: If you can find a local wig specialist, they often make home visits to discuss options and to fit you professionally for a wig. Wig specialists may also offer tips for the care and styling of your chosen wig.
- Online retailers: Online retailers let you shop for wigs in the privacy of your own home. They typically have the largest selection of wigs available, and they may offer consultations over the phone or via an online chat.
Where Can a Cancer Patient Get a Free Wig?
If you've experienced hair loss due to a cancer treatment or a condition such as alopecia, you may be able to get a free or low-cost wig through several nonprofit organizations:
- The Butterfly Club: This nonprofit organization provides wigs, wig caps and a cut and styling to women, teenagers and children worldwide who've experienced hair loss related to illness or cancer treatments. The organization may be reached by email at TheButterflyClub@outlook.com.
- The Verma Foundation: Through its Put a Cap on Cancer program, the Verma Foundation provides free custom cap wigs to women and children battling cancer. The application may be completed online, and a doctor must verify medical need.
- Wigs & Wishes: Wigs & Wishes provides no-cost wigs through hair salons worldwide. You may search online for the nearest salon and schedule an initial consultation.
Your regular hair stylist or a social workers at your cancer treatment center may also be able to direct you to local organizations who connect cancer patients with low- or no-cost wigs.
What Other Options Are Available to Cover Hair Loss Due to Cancer Treatments?
Wigs aren't the only option for people experiencing medically related hair loss. Some individuals prefer accessories such as hats, caps, scarves and bandannas to maintain normalcy and protect sensitive skin from exposure to the sun.
Several organizations offer complementary accessories to women, teenagers and children experiencing hair loss due to illness or cancer treatment:
- Chemocessories provides free custom scarves and turbans to women experiencing medically related hair loss. You can request these one-of-a-kind items online.
- Hope Scarves offers free scarves to anyone facing a cancer diagnosis. Scarves may be requested via their online form.
- Through the Battle Cap Project, individuals suffering medically related hair loss may request a free handmade knit cap by filling out a brief online form.
- Good Wishes offers a free wrap to anyone experiencing hair loss related to an illness or cancer treatment. Wraps may be requested by calling (888) 778-5998, downloading a printable form or completing an online request form.
Where Can I Get More Information?
If you want more information about wigs and head coverings, including where to purchase them and the benefits they may have for cancer patients, call the American Cancer Society's Cancer Helpline at (800) 227-2345 or reach out to an organization that specializes in your specific type of cancer.