Tricare Expands Coverage for Laser Hair Removal

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shaving waiver course at Beale Air Force Base
Airman raises his head as flight surgeon chief of medical staff inspects his neck and face during a shaving waiver course at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 15, 2018. (Colville McFee/U.S. Air Force)

Tricare is easing its strict restrictions on covering laser hair removal, announcing Monday that it will now cover it for procedures that are deemed "medically necessary."

According to an update to the Tricare benefits manual, the military health program will now cover laser hair removal for ingrown hairs, cysts and skin grafts.

The procedure may also be covered in some cases for shave bumps, if "conservative treatment options," like the cessation of shaving, don't work, according to Defense Health Agency spokesman Peter Graves.

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The new benefit comes three years after the Pentagon began covering laser treatments for active-duty personnel who develop severe razor bumps, a condition known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, or PFB.

The move also follows a softening of policy earlier this month by the Navy on discharging sailors with PFB who can't find a treatment that works for them.

The service announced March 9 that affected sailors will no longer be required to shave, as they were previously after the service stopped issuing no-shave chits.

Since PFB is a condition common in African American men and those with curly hair, the policy was reevaluated due to concerns about racial bias.

Until the change this week, Tricare had a blanket policy to not cover laser treatments for hair removal and skin care for any non-active-duty beneficiary, including retirees and family members.

Laser hair removal or electrolysis for cosmetic reasons or any other condition for which treatments do not "primarily correct or improve a body function" are not covered.

The new benefit was made retroactive to May 6, 2021. Beneficiaries who received treatments since then may be eligible to file a claim for reimbursement with their Tricare benefits manager, either Health Net Federal Services in the West Region or Humana Military in the East Region.

– Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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