Photo of Vanderbilt U health-policy professor Stacie Dusetzina, with the quote: "The idea that you could have such poor coverage was just kind of staggering."

On a Sunday afternoon in August, researcher Stacie Dusetzina was sitting alone in her office at Vanderbilt University, watching C-Span and crying.

The U.S. Senate was voting on the Inflation Reduction Act, which among other things , lots of other things , will make it so people on Medicare will pay less for expensive drugs.

It’s a big deal , lots of seniors pay $10,000 a year or more for drugs, or do without life-saving treatment); once the new law kicks in, it sets a limit of $2,000 a year. 

Stacie and her colleagues have spent years making the case for this change, documenting the ways current policies leave people in the lurch. 

She says she’s been borderline obsessed with the topic for almost a decade. “It was so obvious that this is not a benefit that is designed for people who need high-priced drugs,” she says. But who’s most likely to need high-priced drugs, like cancer drugs? Older folks. 

“It just basically created a situation where I was thinking a lot,all the time , about like, how, how do we help make this better?”  

The pharmaceutical industry fought this change tooth and nail , for decades. Julie Rovner, Chief National Correspondent for Kaiser Health News, takes us on a journey back to the late 1980’s, when Congress learned the cost of messing with Big Pharma. 

Here’s a transcript of the episode

Want to hear more great reporting from Julie Rovner? Check out KHN’s What the Health

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