Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal Bill Requiring Insurance Coverage of Devices to Prevent Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment Passes Assembly, Senate

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) announced that her legislation (A38-A/S2063-A) to require insurance coverage of scalp cooling devices during cancer treatment passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously. The bill, sponsored by Toby Stavitsky in the State Senate, will head to the Governor's desk for her signature.

“Losing one's hair can be one of the most difficult and demoralizing side effects of chemotherapy treatment,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal. “Suffering through cancer is hard enough, but chemo-caused alopecia not only serves as a reminder to people of their illness, but also signals to others that they are undergoing cancer treatment, regardless if the person was ready to share their diagnosis.”

The bill, once signed into law, would require private health insurance plans in New York State to provide coverage for scalp cooling systems used in connection with chemotherapy treatment. The cap, which is worn before, during and after a chemotherapy treatment, uses a cooling system to constrict blood vessels in the scalp, thereby limiting the amount of the chemotherapy drugs that reach the cells in the hair follicles.

Three different scalp cooling systems have received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration and the systems are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. If signed into law, this legislation would mark the first-in-the-nation requirement for private health insurers to provide coverage for these devices.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the impact of scalp cooling devices on women with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer and found that all the patients retained more than half of their hair after completing chemotherapy. Despite the success of these treatments, obtaining the device is cost-prohibitive for many, totaling between $1,500 and $3,000.

“Having access to tools that can help prevent hair loss can make a person’s cancer treatment journey that much easier,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Scalp cooling treatments can cost thousands on top of the cost people are already paying for cancer treatment. The benefits of these treatments are far more than just cosmetic, they help people feel more comfortable at a terribly stressful time and enables them to focus on their recovery.”

“Studies have shown that scalp cooling is a safe and cost-effective method and is endorsed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network as a supportive care measure," said Mikel Ross, MSN, RN, Advanced Practice Provider in the Breast Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "The greatest barrier to providing these benefits to all patients is cost. This bill will bring equity to all and represents another step forward in patients having full and equal access to the care they need and deserve.”