Obesity's big price tag

(NBC) - A new study unveiled by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention suggests the price tag for obesity is in the billions of dollars.

More than 25 percent of Americans are now classified as 'obese', and everyone is paying the price because of it.

"The bottom line is about nine percent of annual medical expenditures are caused by obesity," explained Eric Finkelstein, the study's lead author.

That's about $147 billion spent every year on treating weight-related illnesses, with diabetes topping the list.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden is hoping to turn talk into action. "Obesity is the only major health problem in this country that is getting worse and getting worse rapidly," he said.

As Congress wrestles with health care reform supporters of wellness and prevention programs want lawmakers to consider obesity's hidden costs.

Still, former President Bill Clinton in the conference keynote address said change has to start closer to home.

"This is a social issue," Mr. Clinton stressed. "We are trying to turn the Titanic around before it hits the iceberg."

Some suggestions include preventive medical checkups, community exercise programs, healthier menu choices for students and encouraging more grocery stores in low-income areas.

How much all that might cost no one can say. "Somebody is going to have to foot the bill, but as we already see from our study, it's not free to do nothing, either," said Finkelstein.

The study says health care costs for obese Americans are about $1,400 a year more than their fit counterparts.