Why Is Actress Hillary Swank Suing Her Health Insurance Carrier?

Hillary Swank sues The Board of Trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan

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Oscar-winning actress Hillary Swank, of “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Away” fame, is taking her long time battle with her insurance company to court. Swank filed a lawsuit last week against the Board of Trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan for their denial of her claim for ovarian cyst treatment. “Their policies are antiquated, barbaric, and primarily view the role of women’s organs solely as a means for procreation,” Swank said in an interview with People Magazine.

Swank, who suffers from both ovarian cysts and endometriosis, opted for more intensive treatments than hormonal birth control pills, generally prescribed to treat ovarian cysts. Her doctors determined that birth control was not effective, and alternative therapies would preserve her ability to conceive in the future. However, her insurance company seized on Swank’s preferences to categorize her treatment as an “infertility treatment” that it does not cover, “relying on the notion that the only purpose of preserving the health of an ovary is to procreate.”

What is the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan

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The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan is a health insurance plan for professional film and television performers who become eligible for health care coverage when they are employed by producers who have signed Collective Bargaining Agreements with SAG‐AFTRA. However, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan and SAG-AFTRA are separate entities: no portion of SAG-AFTRA’s union dues is used to pay for plan benefits or operational expenses. To be eligible, a performer must make certain yearly earnings from qualified projects SAG-AFTRA projects.

Will Performers who can’t work due to COVID-19 lose their health insurance?

It may be hard to believe, but many film and television performers could lose their health coverage next year. The Covid-19 shutdown stalled thousands of projects and, as a result, many performers have not met the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan’s earning thresholds for eligibility. And to make things worse, for those that will remain eligible, premium costs are rising because of a $141 million deficit this year brought on by COVID-19. The Plan projects that some 3,500 participants and 2,800 of their dependents will lose coverage because of the changes. Performers and other SAG members who lose their coverage under the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan may need to find coverage elsewhere, such as through the “Obamacare” or Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Does it surprise you to learn that even Oscar-winning actors have problems with health insurance coverage?

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