State lawmakers tackle $5B chronic illness cost for Tennesseans

(Courtesy: WCBD)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – For years, Tennessee lawmakers have seen the trend of chronic illnesses costing the state a lot of money, but on Wednesday, they received some eye-brow raising figures putting that number at more than 5 billion dollars annually.

A Sycamore Institute study for the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness found three chronic diseases–type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease–affect 460,000 thousand Tennesseans with a cost for the year 2015 of $5.3 billion in direct medical care, lost productivity, and premature death.

“I don’t think members of the General Assembly fully understand nor do they full appreciate the economic implications of poor health,” said Sen. Bo Watson.

He is one of co-chairs of a newly launched a bipartisan group of lawmakers called the wellness caucus who hope to aiming to make Tennessee healthier compared to the rest of the country.

“One of the things that stood out to me in the study was that if we could improve just from the bottom to the middle we could save Tennessee one-point three billion dollars,” added Rep. Ryan Williams who will be the other co-chair of the new caucus.

So how will the caucus address the issues and Tennessee’s longstanding reputation of being considered on the nation’s unhealthiest states?

“We address it through awareness and we address it through what is out there through the best policies, practices and procedures,” said Nashville Democrat Darren Jernigan. “We need to get information, put it into legislation and hope it impacts Tennesseans in a positive way,”

The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness is a non-profit dedicated to enabling and encouraging healthier lives for Tennesseans.

Click here to read the full study.