What is alopecia?
Alopecia, is the technical term for hair loss, but the medical condition for chronic hair loss is known as alopecia areata. This autoimmune disease affects the hair follicles on the head, face and body when the immune system mistakenly attacks these areas. This results in patches of hair loss, but it can also take a number of extremes including alopecia totalis (losing all hair on the scalp) and alopecia universalis (hair loss on the entire body). Typically, the hair usually grows back in a few months, but other patches could begin falling out in other areas. In rare cases, permanent hair loss will take place, but only in about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with the disease.
While alopecia areata's symptoms vary from patient to patient, it only affects two percent of the U.S. population of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds. Scientists do not know exactly what causes the condition, but heredity does seem to play a role in its development, especially if it emerged in childhood. One in five individuals with alopecia areata have a family member who suffers from it, as well.
When is alopecia treatment reimbursement eligible?
Treatment for hair loss is largely viewed as a cosmetic procedure, which would not be covered with a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). However, treatments that treat legitimate medical conditions that produce hair loss may be covered. While there is no cure for alopecia areata or drugs that can control hair loss, there are a number of medications on the market that can promote hair growth and help individuals better cope with the effects of the disease.
If these products are used to treat the symptoms of a legitimate medical condition like alopecia areata, a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a doctor may allow these products to be eligible for reimbursement with consumer spending accounts. This letter must outline how these products can prevent or alleviate a specific medical condition, as well as how long the treatment will last. If the account holder will require an additional purchase that is outside the current plan year, an additional LMN will need to be submitted the following year.