Does Medicare Cover Electrolysis?

Jory Cross by Jory Cross | Licensed since 2012
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This article was updated on: 09/10/2018

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Medicare typically does not provide coverage for electrolysis, a procedure that removes unwanted hair. Hair removal procedures, including electrolysis, are generally considered cosmetic procedures. Medicare excludes cosmetic treatment from coverage unless it is needed therapeutically to treat an accidental injury or to improve the function of a malformed body part. If the primary aim of the procedure is to improve appearance, Medicare does not cover the treatment.

What is electrolysis?

Hair growth can result from heredity (meaning others in your family had this condition) and/or hormonal levels, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Hair growth may also result from certain illnesses or medications. When the undesirable hair grows on a body part or the face, electrolysis is one procedure for removing it, the American Electrology Association explains. A medical electrolysis device removes unwanted hair with a shortwave radio frequency after a thin probe is placed in the hair follicle. Electrolysis ultimately destroys the hair follicle, removing the unwanted hair permanently.

Electrolysis requires a series of appointments over a period of time to get to permanent hair removal, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The specific number of appointments varies by individual. Appointments usually last between 15 minutes and one hour. Electrolysis should be performed only by a licensed practitioner because of the risk of infection from a needle that’s not sterile and scarring from poor technique, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What does electrolysis cost?

The cost of electrolysis treatment may vary from one clinic to another. Electrolysis typically costs $30-$100 or more per session, depending on the length of the session, according to the Cost Helper website.

When might Medicare cover electrolysis?

Medicare might cover for authorized gender reassignment surgery in the treatment of gender dysphoria. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, gender dysphoria is “intense and persistent discomfort with … one’s birth sex.”

Medicare might cover electrolysis for hair removal as part of Medicare’s transgender-related care benefit. For male-to-female beneficiaries, Medicare coverage might be available if electrolysis is considered part of gender reassignment surgery and not mainly cosmetic.  Benefit coverage decisions regarding electrolysis and transgender medical services are made by regional Medicare administrators and by Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare.

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