What Is the Biggest Entitlement Program in the United States?

As of 2013, Social Security was the biggest entitlement program in the United States, accounting for $809 billion of the federal budget. Social Security and Medicare, the second largest entitlement program, together accounted for one-third of the Federal budget. In the same year, Medicaid was the fastest growing entitlement program.

There are a number of entitlement programs in the United States. Though Social Security is the biggest in terms of spending, Medicaid/CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) had a higher number of recipients in 2012. The list below ranks ten of the biggest entitlement programs based on the number of recipients in 2012.

  1. Medicaid/CHIP
  2. Social Security
  3. Medicare
  4. Food stamps
  5. Child nutrition
  6. College loans
  7. Unemployment insurance
  8. Supplemental Security Income
  9. Veterans compensation
  10. Civil service retirement

Social Security overtook defense spending in 1993, making it not only the largest entitlement program, but also the largest federal spending program, a position it has held since then. However, estimates from the Congressional Budget Office put health care spending ahead of Social Security by 2015. The expansion of Obamacare coverage and Medicaid will contribute to this.

While Medicaid accounted for $265 billion in 2013, it is projected to account for $554 billion by 2023, an increase of 109 percent. In the same ten-year period, Social Security spending is projected to increase by 75 percent to $1,414 billion, while Medicare will grow from its current $586 billion spending to $1,064 billion.