What are the basics of government insurance plans?

For those eligible, the government also has health insurance programs: Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, high-risk pools, and Military Health Insurance. Additionally, the law requires employers to cover some people who are between jobs.
Medicare is insurance for people age 65 and up, as well as younger people with certain disabilities, and people of all ages who have permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant.
Medicaid is a state-administered insurance program available to certain low-income people and families. Participants must meet specific requirements on age, pregnancy, disability, blindness, income, resources, and U.S. residency status. Rules vary by state. 
Families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid may still qualify for State Children's Health Insurance, or SCHIP. Also state-administered, it covers uninsured children no older than 18 whose families earn up to $36,200 annually. For little or no cost to the participant, SCHIP pays for doctor visits, immunizations, hospitalizations and emergency room visits.
High-risk insurance pools exist for those who don't qualify for the above programs and are in relatively poor health. They're state-mandated programs designed to provide coverage to those unable to buy private insurance because of pre-existing conditions. By placing the uninsurables into a single group, the state can emulate private insurers' plans and offer health care (though at a higher cost) to those who'd been denied coverage.
Military Health Care is available to those serving in or retired from the U.S. armed services. The main system, Tricare, is available to all active military employees, to retired members of the uniformed services, and their families. For military retirees, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers additional medical help. One such service, CHAMPVA, helps veterans, their dependents and their survivors pay for medical services. The VA is a plan that offers the same services but to veterans only.
Finally, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 requires employers to continue health coverage to laid-off workers for a limited time. COBRA coverage depends on the circumstances of the job separation. (For example, a person fired after being caught stealing would not continue to get coverage through COBRA.) Though the participant receives the company's insurance, he or she has to pay the full cost.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.