By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 10/27/2009 11:50:49 AM ET 2009-10-27T15:50:49

Claim: Cutting the defense budget in half would allow the government to pay for expanding health insurance.

Estimates of the 10-year cost of the Democrats' insurance overhaul range from about $800 billion to $1 trillion. Some national health insurance advocates look to other parts of the federal budget for money to pay for expanded insurance coverage; defense spending is one possible source. According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense outlays will amount to about $660 billion this fiscal year, representing about 18 percent of federal expenditures.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. Cutting defense spending in half would yield about $330 billion a year — about three times more than the cost of covering the uninsured. But such a reduction is highly unlikely. Most congressional Democrats have supported both an expansion of the Army and Marine Corps and a substantial increase in military benefits, adding billions of dollars a year to Pentagon spending, with spending on medical care being one of the Pentagon's fastest-growing budget items. This month Congress approved a military spending bill for fiscal year 2010 that includes $130 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would save at least $50 billion a year. In theory, those savings could pay for part of the cost of insuring the uninsured. But future costs of U.S. operations in Afghanistan are not yet clear and may eat up any savings.

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