How much did government entitlements grow under Obama?
As President Obama leaves office, one of his major legacies will be the huge increase in the number of Americans who receive benefits from entitlement programs.
Food stamps, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare all saw large increases in beneficiaries. At least some of that increase is due to the growing number of retirees who became eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits.
But the massive increase in the number of people receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion has grown the size of government significantly with a resulting huge increase in the federal budget.
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.
Demographics contributed to a sharp rise in Social Security recipients. But rules governing disability payments were loosened again, leading to a significant increase in the budget:
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.
But by far the biggest increase in beneficiares was in the SNAP program:
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.
Many Medicaid and SNAP recipients were already eligible for benefits even before Obama took office. Increased attention paid by the media to those two programs and herculean efforts by the government to beat the bushes looking for "clients," contributed to the increase.
How many of these new entitlement beneficiaries should actually be covered? The change in food stamp rules has added 11 million Americans to the rolls. Given the rampant fraud in the program as well as recipients who could probably go without food stamps if they spent their grocery money more carefully, the number of beneficiaries who are undeserving is probably in the millions.
And should someone living 133% above the poverty line be eligible for free medical care? It just doesn't make any sense.