What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

There are two primary public medical insurance programs available to disabled individuals: Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for individuals aged 65 and older in the US, though disabled individuals under 65 years who receive SSDI benefits can also qualify. It is funded through the same taxes that are paid towards Social Security. Medicare is designed to help with, but not completely cover, long-term medical treatment. Disabled individuals under age 65 can only begin receiving Medicare 24 months after receiving Social Security Disability payments.

There are several different levels of Medicare, which provide different levels of coverage. For example, Part A coverage includes hospitalization, while Part B covers doctor's appointments and emergency room visits. Part C must be purchased and is usually a private coverage that expands upon parts A and B. Part D includes prescription drugs. In all cases, like most health insurance, the patient may still be responsible for some cost.

Medicaid, on the other hand, is co-funded at the federal and state tax levels and is designed for low income or needy individuals. This includes children, elderly, and disabled who are eligible for federal assistance.

In order to qualify, an individual will have to meet certain limits on things like income and value of assets owned. In most states, the requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid are the same, and in some of these states, the SSI application doubles as the Medicaid application.

While Medicare has four different sections, Medicaid generally covers all the primary types of medical treatment and care, and the patient does not have to pay any cost outside of a co-payment. Typically, individuals must have been eligible for SSI for at least a month before being able to receive Medicaid, and must not be able to work while receiving it. Medicaid will usually continue serving an individual, even when their earnings are higher and price them out of receiving SSI benefits.