Medicare and Medicaid - What's the Difference

Medicare and Medicaid—What’s the Difference?

Most people have some gripe with the government. It’s either doing too much, or not enough. That said, when providing necessary aid, it’s hard to deny that the government does manage to do some good, regardless of what you might think of it otherwise. Medicare and Medicaid are two such government programs that provide healthcare coverage to those who need it. Don’t let the similarity in the names fool you though—they are quite different programs.

What’s Covered

While both Medicare and Medicaid are government-sponsored programs, they can differ dramatically in what they cover. This is in large part because Medicare is governed by the federal government, while Medicaid is governed by the states. So not only do the two programs vary in what is covered between them, but if you’re receiving Medicaid, your benefits could change dramatically just based on where you live. In addition, Medicare is divided into four parts, each covering different healthcare services. Not everyone chooses to include all four in their overall policy, further differentiating the two programs.


An average of 10,000 people become eligible for Medicare each day by aging into eligibility. You become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, if you are under 65 and have certain disabilities, or if you have End Stage Renal Disease or ALS. It’s possible that you could be automatically enrolled in Parts A and B when you turn 65. Qualifying for Medicaid is a little more complicated than just turning 65 though. Medicaid is intended to help alleviate the financial burden associated with healthcare costs experienced by families with limited income. Specific eligibility requirements will vary from state to state.

Associated Costs

Like other health insurance plans, these government programs cover a lot of the cost of healthcare services, but that doesn’t mean they’re free. You may be expected to pay the cost of premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance in the case of either program. What you are required to pay for Medicare will depend on what parts you selected as a part of your policy. Medicaid payments are determined by income level and the state. Some groups may be exempt from the majority of such expenses.

Despite the similarity in how their names sound, the two programs are quite different. What they cover, how you qualify, and the costs associated with each program are different. Differences aside, both of these taxpayer-funded, government-sponsored programs provide much needed healthcare coverage to those who need it most.

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