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Medicaid

Medicaid is the government sponsored health insurance plan for low-income individuals who are otherwise unable to afford medical care. This section has some basic information about Medicaid, how to qualify for it, and how it differs from Medicare.

Who Qualifies for Medicaid

Medicaid is available to U.S. citizens who reside in the United States and whose income is below a certain level. Since Medicaid is administered by the states and not the federal government, like Medicare is, each state is free to set its own eligibility requirements. For detailed information about Medicaid eligibility, you'll need to check with your state government. Most states provide this information online.

Some states are known as "community property" states. Married couples in these states automatically own most property gained during the marriage jointly. For couples seeking care under Medicaid, this can cause problems since one spouse's assets or income may prevent the other spouse from receiving necessary coverage. Consequently, many community property states have special rules for married couples, so that the spouse with lesser income can use Medicaid funds for care. This protects the spouse with greater assets from having to spend all of his or her money on the other spouse's medical care.

How Medicaid Differs from Medicare

The first major difference between Medicare and Medicaid is that Medicaid is administered by the states. Therefore, the states can choose what medical expenses are covered, set claim procedures, and alter eligibility requirements.

Secondly, most states have an application process for Medicaid that isn't necessary for Medicare. That's because Medicare participants are automatically enrolled when they reach retirement age, whereas Medicaid participants have to show that they do not have adequate income to pay for medical expenses.

Finally, Medicare and its associated plans have well-defined coverage. Medicaid coverage is much more flexible and can be used to pay for basic medical expenses and other health related products, such as eyeglasses.

Learn About Medicaid