wigs

News: Worcester woman inspires bill to help cancer patients

Mary Aframe

Founder and owner of The Women's Image Center inspired a bill for Medicare coverage of wigs

By Kaylee Johnston, Special to the Telegram & Gazette
      
WORCESTER - Impassioned by a Worcester business owner, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, proposed a bill amending Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to assist chemotherapy patients on Medicare with coverage for wigs as “durable medical equipment.”

Bill H.R. 2925, referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and the House Committees Ways and Means on June 15, was inspired by Mary Aframe, founder of the Women’s Image Center located in Worcester and Leominster.

“Hair loss is extremely difficult, and then to hear insurance doesn’t cover the wig, it’s just devastating,” Ms. Aframe said. “You look good, you feel better. It really helps with the psychological impact of the diagnosis.”

The Women’s Image Center, a certified mastectomy fitter accredited by the American Board of Orthotics and Prosthetics, Inc., offers a variety of products to assist women going through cancer treatments cope with the physical changes.

Ms. Aframe founded the center 18 years ago after driving by a sign in Fitchburg announcing the opening of a new cancer center. With her knowledge of the wig industry from her sisters who owned hair replacement businesses in Boston, and her scientific background from her time as a dental hygienist, Ms. Aframe became certified in prosthetics and opened up a small shop.

Some of the products available through the center include wigs, lymphedema management garments and breast prosthesis. They handle insurance billing directly.

“I’ll be at my boutique and it’ll be a daughter or son buying the wig because the mom can’t afford it, and it’s heartwarming, but it should be covered,” she said.

According to Aframe, she had been in contact with McGovern for about 14 years discussing this potential bill, and it finally took shape recently after Ms. Aframe appeared on WBZ radio to talk about Medicare’s coverage for cancer patients.


After her appearance on WBZ with host Laurie Kirby, the conversation sparked up again and brought Ms. Aframe to contact Dr. Robert Quinlan of UMass Memorial as the medical expert to help finalize the wording for the bill.


″(Dr. Quinlan) has had some patients say, ‘I’ll have the mastectomy, I don’t want to lose my hair,’” Ms. Aframe said. “One of the other doctors was telling me, ’At the end of the treatment, when it’s all done I’ll say to the women, ‘What’s the most difficult part?’ and he told me 85 percent said it’s the hair loss. For a lot of women your hair is like your crown.”

According to the American Cancer Society, if hair loss is going to occur, it most often begins within two weeks of chemotherapy and progressively worsens after one to two months.

“Every cancer patient deserves access to quality healthcare that will help them undergo treatment with the support and dignity they need,” McGovern said in a press release. “This bill will help to change that and ensure that every cancer patient who loses their hair can afford a wig and undergo treatment with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Wigs made from real hair require more care and can cost between $800 and $3,000. Synthetic wigs are easy to manage and range from $30 to $500.

Many private insurance companies offer wig coverage. Massachusetts law (ch. 32A,17E; ch. 175, 47T; ch. 176A, 8T; ch. 176B, 4R; ch. 176G, 4J) provides coverage of $350 maximum per calendar year for all those under Massachusetts health insurance going through treatment.

“I feel like on a couple of levels it can help women all across the country going through treatment to feel stronger and confident,” Ms. Aframe said. “Feeling confident in your skin post-treatment is paramount. It will make a difference.”

-Article originally posted on the Telegram & Gazette here

 

Bill Helps Cancer Patients Pay for Wigs After Chemotherapy; Legislation Inspired by Worcester Resident

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Rep. McGovern Introduces Bill to Help Cancer Patients
Bill Helps Cancer Patients Pay for Wigs After Chemotherapy;
Legislation Inspired by Worcester Resident
June 22, 2017


 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives to help patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. Most private insurance plans already cover wigs for those undergoing treatment that causes hair loss. The bill would help cancer patients on Medicare, who are undergoing treatments, to pay for wigs not currently covered.
 
“Every cancer patient deserves access to quality healthcare that will help them undergo treatment with the support and dignity they need. For cancer patients who experience hair loss, a wig can mean so much, but is not always covered by their insurance,” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said. “This bill will help to change that and ensure that every cancer patient who loses their hair can afford a wig and undergo treatment with the dignity and respect they deserve. I urge all of my colleagues in Congress to support this important bill.”
 
Congressman McGovern’s bill was inspired by a meeting with Mary Aframe, who runs the Women’s Image Center located in Worcester and Leominister. The Women’s Image Center helps promote confidence in women undergoing image changes related to cancer treatment. Aframe has worked tirelessly to help raise awareness about the many women undergoing chemotherapy who have trouble affording wigs. Aframe said she has heard from many women who are looking for a wig due to hair loss after cancer treatment – specifically breast cancer. Many are on Medicare and struggle to afford a wig, sometimes even choosing different treatment paths to avoid hair loss.
 
According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. Nationally, expenditures for cancer care totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010. In 2017 alone, Massachusetts is expected to see 37,00 new cases of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
 
“This bill is so desperately needed. A wig is not only medically necessary as a part of a woman's physical recovery, but also for the emotional recovery that comes with going through cancer treatment, said Mary Aframe. “Feeling confident in your new skin during and post treatment is paramount to overcoming the challenges and changes women face after a cancer diagnosis”
 
Most private insurance plans already cover wigs for patients undergoing cancer treatments. Congressman McGovern’s bill would re-categorize wigs as durable medical equipment to allow Medicare to provide coverage if a doctor certifies that they are medically necessary. Wigs can cost thousands of dollars and are out of reach for many patients without help from their insurance provider.
 
The new bill, H.R. 2925, has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means, where it awaits further consideration.