Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Q&A with author Amanda Bennett

Amanda Bennett
Amanda Bennett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal, among other publications, and now serves as executive editor for projects and investigations at Bloomberg News. Her most recent book is the memoir The Cost of Hope: The Story of a Marriage, a Family, and the Quest for Life, which focuses on her relationship with her late husband, Terence Foley, and their efforts to find life-prolonging treatments for his ultimately fatal cancer.

Q: Why did you decide to write The Cost of Hope?

A: After my husband died, I realized that as an investigative journalist, I had a skill set that I could use to learn about this very common, very profound experience in a way that most people could not.  So I went back to reexamine all the decisions Terence and I made and also to find out how much they cost.  

Q: You write, "What I couldn't know then was that the thinking behind my request--keep him alive if you can--along with hundreds of decisions we made over seven years, would illustrate the impossible calculus at the core of life, of love of family, and of the U.S. health care debate." How do you think families facing similar difficult choices can navigate through that "impossible calculus"?

A: It is very difficult.  Right now the actual cost of all care, including end of life care, is cloaked in complexity and secrecy and as people are being forced to pay a bigger and bigger share of the costs themselves, the uncertainty is making it harder to plan.  

Q: Was there anything that particularly surprised you as you looked at the cost of your husband's care and the number of medical tests he received?

A: I was astounded at the quantity of tests that he had over the seven years -- for example, he had 76 CAT scans -- and also at the wide variation in price that my employers paid for them -- from about $750 to over $2000.

Q: What impact has the new health care law had on the system, and at this point are there changes that you would like to see?

A: The new health care law does nothing to increase the transparency of the medical system or to reduce its complexity. I would like to see more of both. 

Q: Are you writing another book?

A: I'm not writing another book at the moment, but I am eager to do so.  

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: This book is really a love story.  

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Amanda Bennett will be participating in the Bethesda Literary Festival from April 19-21, 2013. For a full schedule of events, please click here.

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