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Medicaid: Health Care for People With Low Incomes

Medically Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on November 17, 2020

Medicaid is a program of government-funded health services for people with low incomes, limited resources, or certain diseases or disabilities. It differs from Medicare, although the names are similar.

Although the federal government sets up general guidelines which were expanded under the Affordable Care Act, each state runs its own Medicaid program. States establish much of what health care services are covered and which groups of people get coverage. As a result, Medicaid programs vary a great deal from state to state.

How Do I Get Medicaid?

To sign up for Medicaid, you need to get in touch with your state's Medicaid program. The government'sMedicaid.gov or HealthCare.gov websites should have information about your state's Medicaid program.

Having a low income and few resources may not be enough to qualify. Your state may have other eligibility requirements. These might have to do with your age, whether you are pregnant, and whether you have certain conditions or disabilities.

Keep in mind that even if you can't get Medicaid benefits, your child still may be eligible.

How Much Do Medicaid Programs Cost?

The cost of a Medicaid program depends on the state. Some programs require you to make a small co-payment or pay a small premium for medical services in addition to what Medicaid pays.

What Does Medicaid Cover?

In general, Medicaid programs include hospital stays, visits to doctors, tests, some home medical care, and more. Again, the specifics vary from state to state.

What Else Do I Need to Know About Medicaid?

  • Some people qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid programs. They are called "dual eligibles." If you have Medicare coverage and also qualify for Medicaid, Medicaid may pay some of your Medicare fees.
  • If you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid and enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you are eligible for help in paying your drug plan's monthly premium, deductible, and co-pays.
  • If you have kids, they may be covered under a separate program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). You can find out about CHIP and whether you qualify through your state’s Medicaid office or through HealthCare.gov.

To learn more about Medicaid programs, visit the U.S. government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website or HealthCare.gov.

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