A new analysis shows that nearly $15 billion could be saved if chronically obese adults were enrolled in weight-loss courses.

A study by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta predicts that enrolling 70 percent of older adults who are at risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease in community-based intervention programs would reduce Medicare expenditures by up to $15 billion.

There has been a drastic increase in obesity in the United States in past two decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans spend nearly $147 billion per year in direct medical costs for weight-related chronic illness.

The researchers say Medicare could save billions of dollars over the next decade if it funded weight-loss programs for overweight adults between the ages of 60 and 64.

According to the study published in the Health Affairs journal, Medicare savings could range from approximately $7 billion to $15 billion, depending on how broadly program eligibility was defined and actual levels of program participation, said the two researchers Kenneth E. Thorpe and Zho Yang.

The predictions are based on the results of the random trials that lifestyle-modification programs can help people shed 5 to 6 percent of their body weight.

They say it would cost about $590 million for Medicare to put the program in place.