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Hilary Swank Sues SAG-AFTRA Union’s ‘Barbaric’ Health Plan After They Denied Her Ovarian Cyst Treatment

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Hilary Swank is suing her union—the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)—for its health plan after being denied coverage for the treatment of malignant ovarian cysts.

According to a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the 46-year-old Oscar-winning actress filed a lawsuit to California federal court on Tuesday against the board of trustees of the SAG-AFTRA health plan for being “antiquated” and “barbaric.”

She said:

“It’s time we are treated fairly.”

Ovarian cysts are described by the Mayo Clinic as “fluid-filled sacs or pockets” in or on an ovary’s surface that can cause bloating, swelling, or pain in the pelvic area, and can lead to serious issues when ruptured.

Swank had been suffering from recurrent malignant ovarian cysts for more than 11 years and was asking for a federal judge to demand the trustees to resume coverage for treatment.

The actress was first diagnosed with ovarian cysts in 2008, according to court documents.

After suffering from persistent ovarian cysts, her left ovary was removed through emergency surgery the same year. She has since “experienced recurrent cyst formation in her remaining ovary.”

The lawsuit states:

“Because of the cysts recurrence, she is frequently required to undergo aspirations of the cysts, sometimes multiple times per year.”

When she began submitting claims to the union’s health plan in 2009, they initially denied her coverage but later agreed. However in 2015, the trustees “reversed course and stopped allowing Swank’s claims for treatment of ovarian cysts.”

The lawsuit, which can be read in full here, continued:

“It also just so happened that around the same time as when the Trustees no longer agreed to allow Swank’s claims, Swank 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.”

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

“When faced with a claim for insurance benefits for the 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—who recently starred in the Netflix series Away—said she was:

“…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.”

“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.”

She continued:

“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, I decided to speak up.”

“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.”

Swank expressed her commitment to representing other women suffering from similar conditions and from a broken health care system.

“My hope is to be a voice for them. SAG/AFTRA Healthplan claim they treat and protect all their members equally. I don’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 girlfriend. I already know the answer.”

On Wednesday, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan said in their statement that the 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.”

Koh Mochizuki

Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1