When hair loss occurs, we know it can impact your self-esteem, self-image, and confidence.
One of the most common ways of combatting the physical, emotional, and mental impact of alopecia areata is to purchase a wig. By giving the outward appearance of a full head of hair, they can boost confidence, help avoid awkward questions, and even protect the skin from the elements.
But wigs in Australia are costly. They can cost anywhere from $80 to thousands of dollars, plus the additional 10% goods and services tax (which can add up to quite a bit depending on the cost of the wig). Depending on how well they’re taken care of, a wig can last as little as 5 months to as long as 5 years, but eventually, they need to be replaced.
Those costs mean that there’s a great segment of the alopecia areata community that cannot access this potentially life-changing medical device. With all of the challenges individual’s with alopecia areata already face, paying for a wig shouldn’t be one of them. The good news is, there is financial support available.
Tax Rebates and Subsidies
For adults requiring a wig, there are government-sponsored programs that can help you cover the costs in the form of rebates and subsidies.
Most individuals will qualify for a tax rebate on their wig under the Taxation Ruling TR93/34. Section 159P of this ruling allows for tax rebates on net medical expenses. Those expenses include the cost of medical or surgical appliances that are prescribed by a qualified medical professional, such as a medical or surgical wig. Individuals are entitled to a rebate for net medical expenses that exceed $1,000.
There are also a number of state subsidies available, depending on the state in which you live:
- New South Wales (NSW) offers eligible candidates assistive technology like wigs through the Enable NSW program.
- Victoria (VIC) provides subsidized aids and equipment through the State-Wide Equipment Program (SWEP).
- Tasmania (TAS) has financial assistance available for patients of alopecia who have a DHA Pensioner Concession Card or DHA Health Care Card and are referred by a doctor.
- South Australia (SA) supplies wigs or contributes toward the purchase of wigs for eligible clients under the Department for Families and Communities (DFC) Equipment Program.
Each of these programs has their own eligibility requirements, often depending on what kind of wig you’re looking for and your financial situation. Program requirements and benefits will differ from state to state, and Western Australia (WA), Queensland (QLD), Northern Territory (NT), and Australia Capital Territory (ACT) don’t provide any such service.
Private Health Insurance
If you have a Health Fund provider, you may be eligible for assistance through your extra coverage. The provisions under an extra coverage policy may allow the policy holder to file an insurance claim to cover the full or partial cost of a cranial prothesis. Typically, this only applies to individuals who have lost their hair due to medical reasons such as chemotherapy, trichotillomania, or alopecia.
While some health insurance policies require the policy holder to pay for their prothesis and then reimburse them, others will provide you with the money prior to your purchase. The availability of this form of financial assistance varies according to provider, so you’ll have to check with your Health Fund to find out if you can make a claim. Look for a list of Health Fund providers on the Private Health Insurance Ombudsmen’s website.
Financial Support for Children
Alopecia often presents itself in childhood. When it presents during this important period of self-discovery and socialization, it can cause confusion, fear, and a sense of isolation from peers. This is why ensuring children with alopecia can access wigs is incredibly important work.
There are a number of grant programs that children with alopecia may be eligible for. For example, the AAAF’s Wigs for Kids grant program is available to children under the age of 17 who have alopecia areata. On top of financial assistance, this program provides all of the information, service, and support that any child who wishes to wear a wig could possibly need.
Low Cost Wigs
In addition to the financial support options listed above, there are also a number of places to find low cost wigs that are more affordable.
In keeping with their commitment to improve the lives of people with alopecia areata, the AAAF offers a range of synthetic wigs and they keep the cost of these wigs exceedingly low. Indeed, they’re usually sold for well below cost price and they even offer free shipping. Eligible candidates can use these when they’re new to the world of wigs and looking to try some options that are right for them.
Individual wig suppliers all have their own approach when it comes to discounts and payments, but it’s not unheard of to find a wig provider who is willing to arrange a payment plan. There are also a number of wig suppliers that participate in a voucher program approved by the Public Hospital System. You can talk to a nurse or doctor to find out if your hospital has vouchers and check online to see what suppliers in your area qualify.
More Help with Wigs
A beautiful wig can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars, putting them out of reach for a significant portion of the alopecia community. But there is financial support available, if you just know where to look. Consider applying for tax rebates, state subsidies, and grant programs, or looking for low cost wigs to offset the financial burden that wigs can represent.
And for more information and help with wigs, be sure to check out the AAAF wig resources page.