Hilary Swank sues SAG-AFTRA health plan after coverage is denied for ovarian cysts: 'Barbaric'


Hilary Swank is suing the SAG-AFTRA health plan after she was denied coverage for the treatment of ovarian cysts. The Oscar-winning actress spoke out about her decision, slamming the “antiquated” policies that view “the role of women’s organs solely as a means for procreation.”

“I’m truly exhausted by the way women’s ovarian and cyclical health issues continue to be treated by healthcare insurance companies,” the 46-year-old actress began. “I have experienced it in my own life, and I continually read about it across social media and in the press.”

Swank continued, “Their policies are antiquated, barbaric and primarily view the role of women's organs solely as a means for procreation. My hope is 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.”

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets in an ovary or on its surface. According to the Mayo Clinic, a large ovarian cyst can cause pelvic pain a dull or sharp ache in the lower abdomen on the side of the cyst. According to Swank’s lawsuit, which was obtained by People, the board of trustees of the SAG-AFTRA health plan “stopped allowing Swank's claims for treatment of ovarian cysts” in 2015. She was diagnosed with ovarian cysts in 2008, around the time her “left ovary was destroyed and removed during emergency surgery.”

Swank explained on Instagram she “decided to speak up” after “years of experiencing my own health issues and the ensuing denials from my healthcare company for services that are medically proven to preserve my life, and seeing how expensive this is to support without the help of an insurance company.”

“Based on what I learned, I know that most women can’t afford the medical treatments necessary to cover simple female health issues. I can only assume they either financially deplete their resources, or they forgo the treatments, quietly suffering in pain and risking their lives,” she continued. “ My hope is to be a voice for them.”

The Hunt star said the SAG-AFTRA health plan claims to “treat and protect all of their members equally” but she doesn’t “believe this is true.”

“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,” she wrote. “It’s time we are treated fairly.”

Swank received support from her peers.

“YES!!!!!!!” Michelle Monaghan wrote.

“YES HILARY!!!!” added Debra Messing.

“Go get em, Sister!” shared Jewel.

“Let us know if there is anything any of us can do to help!” Swank’s Away co-star, Vivian Wu, added.

Leslie Bibb called the SAG-AFTRA health plan “the worst and our leadership is the worst. They don’t have our backs!!”

The SAG-AFTRA health plan issued the following statement to Yahoo Entertainment: “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 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 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,” the statement says.

According to Swank’s lawsuit, she was denied coverage for ovarian cyst treatment in 2015, around the same 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 lawsuit reads, per People.

“This matter addresses the shockingly antiquated question of whether the sole purpose of a woman, specifically her ovaries, is to procreate,” the document states. “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.”

Swank’s doctors purportedly insisted she was not seeking coverage for fertility treatment, just ovarian cysts, but that “the Trustees dug in their heels.”

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include the SAG-AFTRA health plan statement.

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