Common Questions

Medicare vs. Medicaid Comparison: What Are the Differences?

Medicare and Medicaid cover similar benefits but help serve beneficiaries in different ways. This comparison chart highlights the major differences between Medicare vs. Medicaid.

Given the similar names and some shared benefits, it’s understandable why so many people confuse Medicare and Medicaid. Both programs are federally regulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), though Medicaid programs can have some variations from one state to the next.

The chart below outlines the major differences between Medicare and Medicaid to help you better understand each program and how they are distinguished from one another.

Medicaid vs. Medicare Chart

Medicare vs. Medicaid

 

Medicare

Medicaid

What it is

A federal health insurance program for individuals age 65 and over or who have a qualifying disability. A federal and state program for individuals and families with limited income or resources.

Who administers the program

Federal government State governments

Funding

Federal government, FICA taxes, plan premiums Federal and state governments

Coverage

  • Medicare Part A: Inpatient care at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and mental health treatment facilities

  • Medicare Part B: Outpatient medical care, preventive care and durable medical equipment

  • Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage): Everything covered by Part A and Part B, and plans may also offer prescription drug coverage, dental, vision, hearing, transportation and other benefits

  • Medicare Part D: Prescription drugs

Each state Medicaid program must cover certain mandatory benefits such as inpatient and outpatient care.

A state can also offer optional benefits, which can include prescription drugs, dental and vision care, physical therapy, eyeglasses and more.

Costs

Part A and Part B costs are standardized, and premiums are based partly on work history and income.

Medicare Part C and Part C costs may vary. Medicare costs are generally higher than Medicaid.

Costs are minimal and are generally lower than Medicare. Beneficiaries may pay limited premiums and small copayments. Certain beneficiaries are exempt from most or all Medicaid costs. 

Eligibility

Eligibility is based on age (65) and citizenship or legal resident status. Some people may qualify before 65 because of a disability or health condition such as ESRD or ALS.  

Eligibility varies by state but is primarily based on income and resources.  

Can you have both Medicare and Medicaid?

While Medicare and Medicaid are two different programs, many people are eligible for — and have — both Medicare and Medicaid. 

Those who are eligible for both programs are called “dual eligible” beneficiaries. The two programs work together, with Medicare acting as the primary payer and Medicaid serving as a supplemental payer.

Dual eligible beneficiaries can receive coverage from both programs through a Medicare Savings Program, and some beneficiaries may be able to enroll in a private plan called a Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP) if any are available where they live. 

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Christian

About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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