She called the plan “antiquated” and “barbaric.”

Caroline Goldstein
September 10, 2020
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Hilary Swank is suing the SAG-AFTRA’s “antiquated, barbaric” healthcare plan after the plan’s board of trustees refused to cover treatment for her malignant ovarian cysts. People reports that the Oscar-winning actor filed a lawsuit against the health plan’s board of trustees on September 8th, after becoming “truly exhausted by the way women's ovarian and cyclical health issues continue to be treated by healthcare insurance companies," Swank said in a statement.

The actor was initially diagnosed with ovarian cysts in 2008, during which time her "left ovary was destroyed and removed during emergency surgery,” according to court documents obtained by People. Swank alleges that the plan stopped accepting her claims to cover treatment for her cysts in 2015 as the plan considered the procedure an infertility treatment, which they didn’t cover. 

Swank was not seeking treatment of her cysts specifically for infertility purposes, but the board was apparently unable to extricate female reproductive organs from reproduction itself.

As Swank noted in the court documents, the plan’s “policies are antiquated, barbaric and primarily view the role of women's organs solely as a means for procreation."

The documents further allege that “the Trustees repeatedly said that there was no medically necessary reason to treat or monitor ovarian cysts other than for 'infertility treatment.'"

Swank is not the first celebrity to speak openly about the medical industry’s inherent bias against female health issues. Last month, Gabrielle Union revealed that she’d struggled with undiagnosed adenomyosis for decades, which resulted in painful, heavy periods and an inability to conceive because doctors simply wouldn’t pay proper attention to her symptoms. Padma Lakshmi had a similar experience with her endometriosis, telling Women’s Health that she was “pissed” it took her doctors so long to give her an official diagnosis. 

“I’m shocked that a health professional didn’t say, ‘This is weird. Your cramps are above and beyond what they should be,’” Lakshmi told the magazine.     

Although Swank’s lawsuit is deeply personal, she said in her statement that she’s fighting on behalf of all women whose insurance refuses to cover treatment for their own health issues. 

"My hope is to create change for all women 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 said.

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."