Hilary Swank Sues SAG-AFTRA Over 'Barbaric' Health Plan That Denied Her Coverage for Ovarian Cysts
By Paige Gawley
Hilary Swank is suing the board of trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan after being denied coverage for the treatment of ovarian cysts. In an Instagram post on Wednesday, the 46-year-old actress revealed that she's taken the legal step because she's "truly exhausted by the way women’s ovarian and cyclical health issues continue to be treated by healthcare insurance companies."
"I have experienced it in my own life, and I continually read about it across social media and in the press," she wrote. "Their policies are antiquated, barbaric and primarily view the role of women's organs solely as a means for procreation."
In a statement to ET the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan said, "The Health Plan Trustees care deeply about our participants' health and well-being as well as their privacy and therefore we are unable to comment beyond the statements that have been made public in Ms. Swank’s complaint."
By suing the board, Swank hopes to "create change for all woman suffering from women’s health issues that have to battle with insurance companies who diminish the significance of their problems, don’t believe the patient (or their doctor's) explanations surrounding their suffering, and severely preclude coverage to only incredibly limited services and procedures."
"It’s painful enough having to deal with the nature of a female health issue, let alone having to wrestle with the stress of trying to get your insurance company to provide the coverage and care that their contract explicitly states they offer," Swank wrote.
Swank made the decision to sue after years of "health issues and the ensuing denials from my healthcare company."
The services she was denied, Swank wrote, "are medically proven to preserve" her life. After seeing "how expensive" treatment is without insurance, Swank thought about women who'd be unable to afford care.
"Based on what I learned, I know that most women can’t afford the medical treatments necessary to cover simple female health issues," she wrote. "I can only assume they either financially deplete their resources, or they forgo the treatments, quietly suffering in pain and risking their lives. My hope is to be a voice for them."
"SAG / AFTRA Healthplan claim they treat and protect all of their members equally. I don’t believe this is true," she continued. "If you’re a woman suffering from female health issues, I have no doubt you’ll agree with me. If you’re a man, ask your mother, your daughter, your sister, or a girl friend. I already know the answer. I’m suing SAG / AFTRA Healthplan. It’s time we are treated fairly."
Swank filed her lawsuit on Tuesday after being denied coverage for the treatment of ovarian cysts, according to court docs obtained by ET.
The docs allege that Swank was diagnosed with the cysts in 2008 and the insurance company stopped accepting claims for the condition in 2015, around the time she was "undergoing procedures to preserve her ability to conceive in the future."
"Seizing upon Swank's choice to keep her options open, the Trustees pointed to an exclusion in the Plan for 'infertility treatment,' relying on the notion that the only purpose of preserving the health of an ovary is to procreate," the docs read. "This matter addresses the shockingly antiquated question of whether the sole purpose of a woman, specifically her ovaries, is to procreate."
"When faced with a claim for insurance benefits for medically necessary treatment of ovarian cysts and endometriosis, the Trustees answered 'yes,' determining that there could be no possible reason to treat those conditions other than for the purpose of trying to conceive," the docs continue.
Even after Swank and her doctor explained that the actress was not seeking the treatment for fertility purposes, the court docs allege that "the Trustees dug in their heels... [and] repeatedly said that there was no medically necessary reason to treat or monitor ovarian cysts other than for 'infertility treatment.'"
In their statement to ET, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan said that "contrary to the allegations in Ms. Swank’s complaint, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan does not exclude treatment for endometriosis and ovarian cysts under the Plan’s infertility exclusion but rather covers diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis and ovarian cysts when medically necessary."
"As reflected in the complaint, the accredited Independent Review Organization (which is a completely separate entity from the Plan) reached the same conclusion as the Plan’s Trustees that Ms. Swank’s services were not medically necessary in this case," the statement added.