The average lifetime cost of medical care for a person with AIDS is $35,054, according to a federally commissioned study that examined a large, prepaid group-practice health plan in Northern California. The study by the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region for the congressional Office of Technology Assessment also pegged at $87.7 million the total cost of caring for the estimated 2,500 new AIDS cases in the health plan between now and 1991. Hospital costs for AIDS patients in the health plan dropped by 36% between 1984 and 1986, apparently because of an increased emphasis on outpatient services. But the cost of prescription drugs for AIDS patients rose more than tenfold between 1984 and 1987. The estimated average cost at Kaiser, which serves more than 2 million people in the San Francisco area, is slightly lower than some previous estimates because of the health plan's use of outpatient services.
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