Entitlement Programs Gained Tens of Thousands of Beneficiaries During Obama Administration

Food stamp rolls have increased 32% since 2009

Barack Obama
January 15, 2017

Entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and food stamps have gained tens of thousands of beneficiaries under the Obama administration.

Medicaid, the program that provides health coverage for low-income individuals, greatly expanded during Obama's time in office, largely due to its expansion in the Affordable Care Act.

When Obama took office in 2009, there were 60,880,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. As of March 2016, there were 74,059,221 enrollees, an increase of over 13 million.

"Historically, Medicaid eligibility has generally been limited to low-income children, pregnant women, parents of dependent children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities; however, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included the ACA Medicaid expansion, which expands Medicaid eligibility to individuals under the age of 65 with income up to 133% of the federal poverty level at state option," explains the Congressional Research Service.

Medicare, which offers coverage to individuals 65 years and older, will cost taxpayers about $701 billion in fiscal 2016. According to program trustees, the Medicare trust fund is projected to face insolvency.

In 2009, average monthly enrollment for Medicare was 45,466,997. Enrollment rose to 56,873,505 beneficiaries in 2016, an increase of 25 percent.

"In FY2016, the program will cover approximately 57 million persons (48 million aged and 9 million disabled) at a total cost of about $701 billion," the Congressional Research Service said.

"During the 111th Congress, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made numerous changes to the Medicare program that modify provider reimbursement, provide incentives to increase the quality and efficiency of care, and enhance certain Medicare benefits," the report said. "In the absence of further congressional action, the Medicare program is expected to be unsustainable in the long run."

Social Security, which offers retirement and disability benefits, cost the federal government $888 billion in 2015. It is also on track for insolvency.

"The Social Security trustees project that the combined [Old-Age and Survivors Insurance] and [Disability Insurance] trust funds will be exhausted in 2033 under current law," the Congressional Research Service stated. "The declining solvency of the DI trust fund is the result of an increasing imbalance between the fund's income and outlays."

"Because benefit payments account for nearly all program spending, the growth in the number of beneficiaries on SSDI has contributed heavily to the worsening financial condition of the DI trust fund," it said.

Beneficiaries of both Social Security programs have increased from 50,898,296 in December 2008 to 60,907,307 beneficiaries at the end of 2016, an increase of roughly 10 million individuals.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as the food stamp program, helps low-income individuals purchase food. The program cost taxpayers $70,866,830,000 in 2016.

In 2009, when Obama entered office, 33,490,000 Americans were on food stamps. Eight years later that number had increased to 44,219,000, an increase of nearly 11 million. Recipients of the program received a monthly benefit of about $125. The Department of Agriculture has noted that changes to food stamp policies made it easier to receive benefits.

One entitlement program declined under Obama. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program shrank from 4,154,366 recipients in 2009 to 2,694,959 recipients in 2016.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.