What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Who’s eligible, who pays, and what services are covered. The main difference between Medicare and Medicaid is the eligibility criteria. Medicaid is based on your income and level of disability, and Medicare is based on age and in some cases covers severely disabled people.

Medicaid is designed for low-income people, pregnant women, children, disabled, elderly, and other people who cannot afford other affordable healthcare coverage. The program is federally and state-run. Each state has its own spin on Medicaid, so you apply for Medicaid through your state’s medical assistance office.

Medicare, on the other hand, is designed for people 65 and over regardless of income, people with severe kidney disease, and those who are permanently disabled. Medicare is a federal program (no or very few state variations allowed here!), and you enroll at your local Social Security office.

Keep in mind that some people may qualify for and enroll in both programs.

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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.