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Hilary Swank Sues SAG-AFTRA’s 'Barbaric' Health Plan After Being Denied Coverage for Ovarian Cysts
"I'm suing SAG/AFTRA Healthplan. It's time we are treated fairly," Hilary Swank said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE
Hilary Swank is suing the SAG-AFTRA's "antiquated, barbaric" health plan after being denied coverage for the treatment of malignant ovarian cysts.
The Oscar-winning actress, 46, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the board of trustees of the SAG-AFTRA health plan in which she said she had been denied coverage for the treatment of ovarian cysts, in court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
The actress claims the trustees "stopped allowing Swank's claims for treatment of ovarian cysts" in 2015, according to the court documents. Swank was diagnosed with ovarian cysts in 2008, around the time her "left ovary was destroyed and removed during emergency surgery."
The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the actress 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," Swank said. "Their policies are antiquated, barbaric and primarily view the role of women's organs solely as a means for procreation."
Tommaso Boddi/FilmMagic Hilary Swank
"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."
She continued, "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."
Getty Images Hilary Swank
"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," Swank said. "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."
The actress added, "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."
"I'm suing SAG/AFTRA Healthplan," Swank concluded. "It's time we are treated fairly."
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Ovarian cysts are solid pockets within or on the surface of an ovary that may cause issues such as bloating, swelling or pain in the pelvic area, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan said, "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 continued. "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."
In the court documents, the Away star said she was denied health coverage for ovarian cyst treatment in 2015, around the same time she "was undergoing procedures to preserve her ability to conceive in the future."
It continued, "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, specifically her ovaries, is to procreate," the documents read. "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 lawsuit states the actress and her doctor's insisted "she was not seeking coverage for fertility treatment, but only for treatment for her ovarian cysts" but that "the Trustees dug in their heels."
"The Trustees repeatedly said that there was no medically necessary reason to treat or monitor ovarian cysts other than for 'infertility treatment.'"
Swank, who married entrepreneur Philip Schneider in 2018, told People NOW in May 2019 she was drawn to survivor stories while promoting her film I Am Mother.
"We're all surviving something," she said at the time. "We're all survivors in our own way. It's life. What our pasts are, what we're made up of. I just like the underdog. Something about persevering through adversity is inspiring to me."
Swank currently stars in Netflix's series Away, now streaming.