Number of Oklahoma AIDS Cases to Grow

Article excerpt

Since its discovery 10 years ago, AIDS has taxed the overworked, financially burdened social welfare systems of America's inner cities.

For whatever demographic reasons, the disease has not deluged Oklahoma's medical, educational, legal and social welfare institutions. But an AIDS researcher warns that will change.

As of May, 800 people have been diagnosed with AIDS in Oklahoma.

According to the statistics, 500 have died.

"To me, the more important number is the number of people who are HIV positive out there who do not yet have AIDS," said Ivan Hanson, a professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

"In the short period of about 2 years. . .(since) the state (Department) of Health mandated that people needed to report by name everyone who was HIV positive, we've got 1,225 HIV positive persons,"

Hanson said. "In public health, our concern is we need to make sure we've got a health-care delivery system that's going to be able to take care of these people."

Hanson, who teaches in the College of Public Health's Department of Health Administration, said Oklahoma probably will not see as high a number of AIDS patients as more populous states.

According to a 1988 Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation study, hospitals are feeling the pinch.

An average of 9.8 patients with AIDS occupied Oklahoma hospital beds each day in 1988, the year for which the latest statistics are available.

The average amount an AIDS patient was charged for inpatient care was $918 a day.

"The individual charge is about 70 percent of billed charges," said Michael LaPolla, director of the foundation's Center for Health Policy Research. "Billed charges are what costs the hospital actually incurred for its services.

"The others are mark up charges because others don't pay or they underpay."

Researchers wanted to find out if the 107 hospitals surveyed were actually providing care below cost or if their profits were lower, LaPolla said.

"We found out they were really rendering care below cost over the entire study period," he said. "They had expended millions more than what they collected, obviously because their patients couldn't pay their bills for one reason or another.

"Therefore, the hospital had to eat that million dollars. But the hospital, being what they are, the next time you go into a hospital, you're going to make up a portion of that."

Oklahoma hospitals collectively lost an estimated $4.65 million of potential revenue and received $1.1 million less than the actual expense of providing care, the study said.

Most of AIDS patients are cared for in public health facilities in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

"Most of the AIDS patients get referred to infectious disease specialists, and in Oklahoma, the infectious disease specialists are headquartered in Oklahoma City and Tulsa," Hanson said. "Many of the patients from rural Oklahoma tend to get referred into these two cities."

"Our concern in public health is really two-fold. Number one, there needs to be a coordinated delivery system for taking care of these people," Hanson said. "And the second thing is that we need good, strong health education programs, which are our only mechanism for preventing the disease right now."

In 1987, Oklahoma passed a law requiring the state Department of Education and the state Health Department to develop a program to make students aware of the disease, how it is transmitted and how it can be prevented. …