Hairless Man Rallies Medicaid Support to Provide Hair Pieces for Hair Loss Sufferers

by Staff Writer

If you lose a limb, Medicaid will cover the cost for a prosthetic replacement. However, if you lose your hair, you are out of luck – even if you lose all your hair, including the hair all over your face and body.

Three years ago, Redwood City resident Matt Kelley lost every hair on his body over the coarse of six weeks. Forty-one-year-old Kelley suffers from alopecia areata, a relatively uncommon autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles.

The experience brought on a deep depression and in an article on Inside Bay Area, Kelley explains that he was emotionally devastated from his hair loss.

Matt Kelley decided to take action.

He worked to raise awareness about his disease and eventually that awareness spread into the halls of Congress. On Tuesday, May 13, 2008, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto introduced a bill that would require Medicaid to provide alopecia areata patients with prosthetic hairpieces.

It’s a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico and would mandate that federal and state health care provider Medicaid pay for one prosthetic hair piece per year for patients with severe forms of alopecia areata.

Approximately 4 million Americans suffer  from alopecia areata. The psychological effects of the disease are often devastating and can lead to depression and anxiety.
When Matt Kelley was in the throes of the disease, he felt “unattractive and as though everyone was staring at him.” Those who have experienced severe forms of hair loss explain that many people simply do not understand the psychological pain that it can cause.

Today, Matt Kelley is the founder of several sports memorabilia stores throughout the Bay Area. He chooses not to wear a wig and has found that humor and a positive attitude help him cope with his total body hair loss. Still, he believes that having access to hairpieces will help people with alopecia areata cope with the disease.

Hair is kind of an integral part of our culture,” Kelley says. “It doesn’t help you walk like a prosthetic leg might, but it helps you get out the door and deal with society.

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