Medicare. Medicaid. Just the two names alone can be confusing. After all, they’re both forms of government-provided health care—and they both start with the same six letters.

“While it’s generally true that the first program benefits Americans age 65 and over, and the second serves those with limited incomes and resources, it’s possible for certain people to be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid,” added Brandy Bauer, director of NCOA’s MIPPA Resource Center. “This understandably adds to the confusion.”

NCOA is here to help you sort it through. In this article, you’ll learn exactly what each of these health insurance programs is, including:

  • What Medicare covers
  • What Medicaid covers
  • What the major differences are between Medicare and Medicaid
  • What are the eligibility guidelines
  • How to apply
  • Where to find more help

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers a wide range of services to keep you healthy as you age. Medicare is generally intended for older Americans, but some younger people with certain disabilities can also receive this benefit. Medicare enrollees share the costs of coverage through monthly premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.

What are the 4 types of Medicare?

Medicare is an umbrella term that includes four different categories: Medicare Part A (hospital insurance, or inpatient care); Medicare Part B (medical insurance, or outpatient care); Medicare Advantage Part C (voluntary private insurance); and Part D (private prescription drug coverage). Together, Parts A and B are often called Original Medicare.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a public health insurance program for people with limited income and resources, regardless of age. Because Medicaid is a joint program of the federal government and individual states, it can have a different name depending on where you live. Generally speaking, Medicaid enrollees have minimal or no out-of-pocket costs for covered health care expenses.

What is the major difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

Actually, there are two core differences: who administers the program and who can enroll.

  • Medicare is managed by the federal government and eligibility is based on age or disability.
  • Medicaid is managed by each individual state and eligibility depends on income.

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