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The cost of comorbidities in treatment for HIV/AIDS in California



Antiretroviral therapy has increased longevity for people living with HIV (PLWH). As a result, PLWH increasingly experience the common diseases of aging and the resources needed to manage these comorbidities are increasing. This paper characterizes the number and types of comorbidities diagnosed among PLWH covered by Medicare and examines how non-HIV comorbidities relate to outpatient, inpatient, and pharmaceutical expenditures.


The study examined Medicare expenditures for 9767 HIV-positive Californians enrolled in Medicare in 2010 (7208 persons dually covered by Medicare and Medicaid and 2559 with Medicare only). Costs included both out of pocket costs and those paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Comorbidities were determined by examining diagnosis codes.


Medicare expenditures for Californians with HIV averaged $47,036 in 2010, with drugs accounting for about 2/3 of the total and outpatient costs 19% of the total. Inpatient costs accounted for 18% of the total. About 64% of the sample had at least one comorbidity in addition to HIV. Cross-validation showed that adding information on comorbidities to the quantile regression improved the accuracy of predicted individual expenditures. Non-HIV comorbidities relating to health habits-diabetes, hypertension, liver disease (hepatitis C), renal insufficiency-are common among PLWH. Cancer was relatively rare, but added significantly to cost. Comorbidities had little effect on pharmaceutical costs, which were dominated by the cost of antiretroviral therapy, but had a major effect on hospital admission.


Comorbidities are prevalent among PLWH and add substantially to treatment costs for PLWH. Many of these comorbidities relate to health habits that could be addressed with additional prevention in ambulatory care, thereby improving health outcomes and ultimately reducing costs.

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