Presidential Candidate Pushes for Government to Pay for Hair Restoration Treatments
South Korea’s Presidential hopeful, Lee Jae-myung is looking to win the hearts and minds of the voters, especially those suffering from hair loss for both men and women. The South Korean Presidential candidate shared in a news conference, that the national healthcare insurance program should pay for hair loss treatments. He even pleaded his case on his Facebook page, encouraging his constituents to share their grievances about their hair loss.
“Please, let us know what has been inconvenient for you over hair-loss treatments and what must be reflected in policies,” Lee wrote on Facebook. “I’ll present a perfect policy on hair-loss treatment.”
And, although an early study found only 14% of Korean men experience male pattern baldness, and only 11% of Korean women suffer from female hair loss, Lee’s proposal for government assistance to pay for hair restoration treatments struck a chord with the public—especially online.
The social media posts made online included, “Jae-myung. I love you. I’ll implant you in the Blue House” and “Your Excellency, Mr. President! You’re giving new hope to bald people for the first time in Korea.” It makes sense why people are reacting so passionately, since South Korea is known for its innovation in cosmetic beauty. Even having its own category in the industry as “K-Beauty.”
So, let’s explore the different ways to treat male and female pattern baldness that the South Korean government may start to pay out in the future. But first, what causes hair loss for men and women?
What Treatments are there for Hair Loss?
There are different ways to treat hair loss, from oral medications to a hair transplant procedure. Most of these treatments are not covered by insurance in the US. Selecting which treatment to go with will depend on the amount of hair loss, the reason for the hair loss, and the patient’s ultimate vision of the final outcome.
The most popular hair loss treatments that could potentially be covered by the South Korean Jae-myung’s plan include:
Finasteride, an oral medication to treat male patterned baldness since 1991, was listed as the 86th most prescribed medication in the United States in 2019— that’s more than 8 million prescriptions. The cost of this medication can range from $20 – $80 per month. Assuming that the medication will be prescribed as widely in South Korea, it will require a significant amount of funding to offer free finasteride to patients.
A topical treatment sold under the popular brand name Rogaine and is available in a foam or liquid spray. Minoxidil works through the shortening the resting phase (telogen) of the hair growth cycle, allowing the active growth phase (anagen) to be longer. And like Finasteride, Minoxidil will only work if it’s being used on a regular basis. The medication is available over the counter without a physician prescription and is widely used in the United States. The cost of it is around $10-40 per month supply. We assume this hair loss treatment could also be offered in South Korea potentially.
A hair transplant is the most effective and comprehensive method to treat hair loss. The results are long-lasting and is designed for hair to grow naturally. A hair transplant surgery involves taking hair follicles from a donor section of the scalp, usually taken from the back and sides of the head, where it’s less prone to hair loss. There are two methods of transplanting hair Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) or Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).
Who knows what the future holds for the South Korean Presidential candidate, Lee Jae-myung, but we fully support his proposal to add hair loss treatments to their national healthcare program. We have seen first-hand with our patients the positive impact an effective hair loss treatment can have on a person’s life. So, we hope this conversation of providing more attainable access for hair restoration options continues to develop across the globe and here in the states.
However, hair restoration requires an expert team and medical facility to perform this type of procedure, a hefty cost to the healthcare system if it’s provided to everyone. In general, over 60% of male population over the age of 50 require some sort of hair restoration. And due to the higher cost of a hair transplant, only a small portion of the population can afford it.
Nevertheless, we assume the number of patients who get a hair restoration procedure will exponentially go up if it’s offered to all at no cost.
And so, the bigger question that is left to ask is South Korea ready for this surge of patients who will rush to take advantage of the free treatment to get their full head of hair back?