THIS STORY WAS UPDATED AT 2:06 pm on 6/15/15
Under legislation introduced in the Michigan House, health insurance policies would be required to cover wigs for children who lose their hair due to illness.
The wigs would be classified as prosthetics, and the law would require they be covered at the same rate as other prosthetics.
State Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, says loss of hair is psychologically, emotionally, and socially traumatic for children, and can result in ostracism, bullying, and low self-esteem. Some non-profit organizations, such as Wigs 4 Kids, supply wigs. Wigs 4 Kids uses real hair donations to construct, cut, and style the wigs at no cost to the patient. But demand exceeds available funds. Wigs for children are not readily available and typically cost $1,500 to $2,500, according to Roberts.
She was inspired by Wigs 4 Kids to write and sponsor the bill. "We know of at least 13 other states across the nation that require their insurance companies to offer some type of coverage for wigs for children," Roberts says.
According to Roberts, lawmakers' insurance plan offers some coverage for wigs for children, "so I believe what's good for us as politicians should be good for any other family or child in the state of Michigan."
Insurance companies typically resist mandates for coverage on the basis that they increase cost for all customers. However, according to Roberts, the cost of coverage wigs for children would be minimal compared to costs associated with major diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
About 500 children per year in Michigan are diagnosed with cancer, and an unknown, but small number of kids develop alopecia, which causes hair loss. "I really think this is going to cost pennies if it's spread across everybody's insurance plan," says Roberts. "Who wouldn't want a child to have a wig?"
The bill has the support of Jaeleen Davis, the current Miss Spirit of the State and contestant for Miss Michigan title. Davis lost her hair at age 8, and experienced bullying due to hair loss. She received a wig from Wigs 4 Kids at age 10, and went on to compete successfully in beauty pageants, even winning Best Hair in her first pageant, according to Roberts.
Roberts says Davis' story highlights the importance of hair prosthetics to the self esteem of children.
The bill has bipartisan support and will soon be assigned to a committee.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to the organization Wigs 4 Kids by an incorrect spelling, and also had an incorrect name of the pageant won by Jaeleen Davis. The updates corrected these errors.