Elder law attorneys are often asked by clients about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. While the names of these government-sponsored programs sound very similar, each has a distinct purpose and serves a specific audience.
MEDICARE is a federal health insurance program. No matter what your income is, you can obtain Medicare benefits if you are 65 and over, or have a qualifying disability. The program is not free – you must pay part of the costs through deductibles for hospital stays and you must pay monthly premiums for coverage.
MEDICAID is a federal and state financial assistance program for people over 65, people with disabilities, children, pregnant women and parents of eligible children. To be eligible for Medicaid benefits, individuals from these groups must also have low income. Because it is run jointly by the state and the federal government, rules and eligibility requirements vary state by state.