Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Hilary Swank Agrees To Settle Lawsuit Against SAG-AFTRA Health Plan

Hilary Swank and the board of trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan have entered into a written settlement agreement to resolve her lawsuit in which she asked a federal judge to order the trustees to resume coverage of her treatment for recurrent malignant ovarian cysts, which have afflicted the two-time Oscar-winning actress for nearly 12 years.

Her lawsuit, filed nearly a year ago in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, said that beginning in 2009, she submitted claims to the plan’s precursor – the SAG Health Plan – for treatment of ovarian cysts, which the trustees initially denied but later agreed to cover.

In 2015, however, “the Trustees reversed course and stopped allowing Swank’s claims for treatment of ovarian cysts,” the suit stated. “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.”

The suit adds: “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.”

The suit said that “the purpose of treating and monitoring Swank’s sole remaining ovary was unrelated to any ‘infertility treatment.’ Rather, Swank’s doctors were focused on saving her ovary to prevent the risk of debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, loss of estrogen production, premature menopause, osteoporosis, depression, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol in the blood), coronary artery disease, arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic pain, fatigue, chest pain, heart palpitations, muscle spasms, insomnia, recurrent urinary tract and yeast infections, and even early death.”

In reaching their settlement agreement, both parties must still file a stipulation of dismissal, at which time the court can dismiss the case with prejudice, resolving the matter once and for all. That could take another two to three weeks.

In his Aug. 9 order, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Kronstadt wrote that “In light of the parties’ Notice of Settlement, the Court orders that the action is dismissed without prejudice. The Court retains jurisdiction to vacate this Order and to reopen the action within 45 days from the date of this Order; provided, however, any request by any party(ies) that the Court do so, shall make a showing of good cause as to why the settlement has not been completed within the 45-day period, what further settlement processes are necessary, and when the party(ies) making such a request reasonably expect the process to be concluded. This Order does not preclude the filing of a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41, which does not require the approval of the Court. Such a stipulation shall be filed within the aforementioned 45-day period, or by such later date ordered by the Court pursuant to a stipulation by the parties that conforms the requirements of a showing of good cause stated above. It is so ordered.”


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