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Medicare vs. Medicaid: What is the difference?


Who qualifies?

Medicare is available to Americans age 65 and older, and sometimes to younger persons with disabilities. If you’ve paid payroll taxes for the last 10 years, a portion of your Medicare coverage is free. If you have not paid the taxes, you are still eligible for benefits—but your premiums will be higher. We’ll get into more cost and coverage details in a moment…


Medicaid is available to low-income Americans regardless of age. Because each state governs its own Medicaid guidelines, having a low income may not be enough to receive benefits—you may also need to meet other requirements, such as pregnancy or disability. Visit this Medicaid page to learn if you may qualify.

Depending on your circumstances, you could qualify for both programs.


Who's paying the bill?

If you’ve been working and paying taxes, you have been paying toward your Medicare coverage. But it’s not over—depending on the types of coverage you select, you may still have premiums, deductibles, and copayments, too. The more coverage you select, the more you will pay.

Medicaid is a type of public aid, paid by U.S. tax dollars. Eligible recipients pay little to nothing for the healthcare they receive.


Who administers the programs?

Medicare is a program run by the federal government. It is the same in all 50 states. Recipients can select Original Medicare and/or select a private insurance company for coverage.


Medicaid is run by states and local governments but must adhere to certain federal guidelines. Coverage and eligibility varies from state to state.

Can we talk numbers?

Here's a reference chart to compare the cost and coverage of the programs:


 Medicaid vs Medicare




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