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Mike Huckabee illustrates a need for overhauling our health care system by comparing what is spent in the U.S. on health care versus what is spent on what he calls the entire military budget.
There are two problems with Huckabee's statement.
Here's the first one: The number Huckabee quotes for U.S. military expenses is only what the U.S. Department of Defense spends, which at about $520 billion in 2007 is 3.8 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.
But defense spending is spread across many other budgets. According to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, the nation's entire 2007 national defense budget — which includes atomic energy and defense-related activities in the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and Commerce — is $570 billion. That's about 4.2 percent of GDP. So, Huckabee's off, but not by much.
Here's the bigger problem. In his statement, Huckabee seems to be comparing federal government spending on the military to total spending in the U.S. on health care. Not just government money, but also private spending.
His campaign didn't return phone calls to explain what he meant or from where he drew his statistics. But his 17 percent of GDP most closely resembles a figure cited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency responsible for administering health programs. It reported in January 2007 that the U.S. is projected to spend about 16.2 percent of GDP on national health expenditures this year, or about $2.3-trillion.
But that's everything. What the federal government spends, what state and local governments spend, what private citizens spend.
The same study shows that if you subtract private sector money from the equation, health care expenses by the federal government drop to 5.5 percent of GDP. Add in state and local government spending and you get to 7.6 percent of GDP.
Of course, "we," all of us, make up the private sector. So Huckabee has every right to include the private with public expenses when citing the true cost of U.S. health care in proportion to GDP. But comparing that with government-only spending on the military, or anything else, artificially inflates the disparity between the two costs.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services U.S. Health Spending Estimates Through 2005 Jan. 7, 2007
Office of Management and Budget, Historical Table 3.1, Outlays by Superfunction and Function: 1940-2012
National Defense Budget, Fiscal Year 2008
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