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Hilary Swank settles lawsuit against actors’ union health plan over coverage for ovarian cysts

Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank has settled her lawsuit against the trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan for refusing to cover her ovarian cyst treatments.

The Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby star, 47, had filed suit against the actors union in federal court in Los Angeles in September 2020.

Neither party has publicly revealed details of the settlement which was submitted to  the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on August 6, Bloomberg Law reported Monday.

Reached a deal: Double Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank has settled her lawsuit against the trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan for refusing to cover her ovarian cyst treatments

In filing her lawsuit last year, Swank sought to force the union to resume coverage of her treatment for recurrent malignant ovarian cysts that have afflicted her for more than 11 years.

She said in her lawsuit that she submitted claims starting in 2009 to the plan’s precursor, SAG Health Plan, for treatment of ovarian cysts.

The trustees initially denied, but later agreed to cover treatment, according to her lawsuit.

‘However, in 2015, the Trustees reversed course and stopped allowing Swank’s claims for treatment of ovarian cysts. 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,’ the lawsuit said. 

Legal action: In filing suit, Swank, 47,  sought to force the actors union to resume coverage of her treatment for malignant ovarian cysts that have afflicted her for more than 11 years

Legal action: In filing suit, Swank, 47,  sought to force the actors union to resume coverage of her treatment for malignant ovarian cysts that have afflicted her for more than 11 years

‘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 court papers said.

The lawsuit argued that the issue ‘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’s insurance industry attorney Kirk Pasich, of Los Angeles-based Pasich LLP, opened the lawsuit with a quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is about women forced to reproduce.

‘As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes,’ read the quote.

Couple: Swank and entrepreneur Philip Schneider married in August 2018. The star was previously married to actor Chad Lowe from 1997 to 2007

Couple: Swank and entrepreneur Philip Schneider married in August 2018. The star was previously married to actor Chad Lowe from 1997 to 2007

The lawsuit said that plan trustees ‘repeatedly said that there was no medically necessary reason to treat or monitor ovarian cysts other than for ”infertility treatment”.’

Swank in the lawsuit was seeking a court declaration that the health care plan trustees are required to pay for the requested treatment.

The lawsuit provided a timeline of her treatment starting with her diagnosis in 2008 with ovarian cysts.

‘Due to persistent ovarian cysts, Swank’s left ovary was destroyed and removed during emergency surgery in 2008. Since then, she has experienced recurrent cyst formation in her remaining ovary,’ the lawsuit said.

No coverage: The actress, pictured in November 2018, appealed the decision to revoke her coverage but it was denied after a consultant determined her treatments were for the purpose of monitoring and treating infertility

No coverage: The actress, pictured in November 2018, appealed the decision to revoke her coverage but it was denied after a consultant determined her treatments were for the purpose of monitoring and treating infertility

She also was suffering from endometriosis resulting in ‘pain and digestive issues,’ according to court papers.

‘Because of ovarian cysts and endometriosis, Swank suffers from extreme and debilitating degrees of acid reflux, pelvic pain throughout her lower abdomen, bloating, cramping, and fatigue, among other symptoms. Swank has and continues to receive treatment for ovarian cysts, including monitoring their growth and treating the cysts and endometrial tissue with ultrasounds, bloodwork, aspirations, and surgery as needed,’ the lawsuit stated.

Swank appealed the decision to revoke her coverage, according to the lawsuit, but it was denied after a consultant determined her treatments were for the purpose of monitoring and treating infertility. 

She then requested an external review of the decision to deny coverage in April, before filing her case after ‘having exhausted her administrative appeals, the lawsuit said.

Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of trans man Brandon Teena in the 1999 biopic Boys Don’t Cry.

She earned her second Oscar for Best Actress for playing aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in the 2004 drama Million Dollar Baby. 

Breakout role: Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of transgender Brandon Teena in the 1999 biopic Boys Don't Cry (pictured with Chloe Sevigny)

Breakout role: Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of transgender Brandon Teena in the 1999 biopic Boys Don’t Cry (pictured with Chloe Sevigny)

Acclaimed: She won her second Best Actress Oscar for her performance as aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in 2004's Million Dollar Baby with Clint Eastwood

Acclaimed: She won her second Best Actress Oscar for her performance as aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in 2004’s Million Dollar Baby with Clint Eastwood

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