Generally, Medicare does not cover treatment for hair loss (also called alopecia) unless the treatment is medically necessary to treat a disease that has caused the baldness.
Hair loss can result from many causes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, among the approximately 80 million men and women in the United States who have hair loss, the leading cause is hereditary. There is more than one type of hereditary hair loss:
- Male-pattern baldness.
- Female-pattern baldness.
- Androgenetic alopecia.
How can I prevent hair loss?
Not all hair loss is preventable. Causes for hair loss noted by the American Academy of Dermatology include:
- Hormones, such as abnormal levels of androgens (male hormones normally produced by both men and women)
- Ringworm caused by a fungal infection can also cause hair loss.
- Burns, injuries, and X-rays can cause temporary hair loss. In such cases, normal hair growth usually returns once the injury heals unless a scar is produced. Then, hair will never regrow.
- Autoimmune disease may cause alopecia areata. In hair loss caused by alopecia areata, the immune system is overstimulated for unknown reasons and affects the hair follicles. In most people with alopecia areata, the hair grows back, although it may temporarily be very fine before normal thickness returns.
- Stress, illness, and childbirth can cause temporary hair loss.
- Medications, including chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment, blood thinners, beta-adrenergic blockers used to control blood pressure, and birth control pills can cause temporary hair loss.
- Cosmetic care of hair, such as shampooing too often, permanents, bleaching, braiding and dyeing hair can contribute to hair loss by making hair weak and brittle. In most instances hair grows back normally if the source of the problem is removed before severe damage to the hair or scalp.
- A low-protein diet or severely calorie-restricted diet can also cause temporary hair loss.
- Medical conditions. Thyroid disease and iron deficiency anemia can cause hair loss. Often when the underlying condition is treated, the hair will return unless there is scarring.
What are the options for treatment for hair loss?
Treatments for hair loss include medications, laser therapy, surgery, and wigs or hairpieces. Your doctor may suggest a combination of these approaches in order to achieve the most satisfactory results.
If your hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease may be necessary. As the Mayo Clinic explains, this may include prescription drugs, such as prednisone, to reduce inflammation and suppress your immune system. Medicare may cover the physician’s services related to the diagnosis and medical treatment of the underlying disease under Medicare Part B. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, the plan may provide coverage for the medication prescribed to treat the underlying disease.
Another treatment for hair loss is surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may perform surgery removing small plugs of skin with hair from one part of the head and implanting them into bald areas of the scalp. Generally, Medicare does not cover surgical hair loss treatment, however.
Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits generally do not provide coverage for medications intended to treat hair loss, which your doctor may prescribe before and following surgery, or independent of any hair replacement surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, common medications approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of hair loss include non-prescription Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine), a liquid that is massaged into the scalp, and Finasteride (Propecia), a prescription drug administered daily in pill form for men experiencing hair loss.
An alternative to medical treatment is a wig or hairpiece, which may be used to cover either permanent or temporary hair loss. If your hair loss is due to chemotherapy, the cost of the wig may be covered if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
Do you have more questions about Medicare coverage of hair loss?
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