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Medicare versus Medicaid

What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

The words “Medicare” and “Medicaid” are so much alike that it’s easy to get them confused. To add to the confusion, both are government programs and both help people pay for health care. But that's where the similarities end.

Medicare and Medicaid are two completely different programs. The main difference is that Medicare is generally for people who are older or disabled, and Medicaid is for people with limited income and resources.

Medicare and Medicaid comparison

The table provides more information about Medicare and Medicaid and how they compare.

People who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid are said to be “dual eligible.” If you qualify and enroll in both programs, then sometimes the two can work together to cover most of your health care costs.

Medicare Savings Programs are state-run Medicaid programs designed to help with the cost of Medicare. There are four different programs with slightly different qualifications and benefits. Qualifying income and resource levels are set by the federal government, but each state decides what counts when calculating this for an individual.

For information about dual eligible programs, you can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday, or contact your state Medical Assistance or Medicaid office.