Medicaid is the largest government health insurance plan in the United States. More than 74 million Americans are covered through this joint federal and state government health care plan. Medicare is another federal health care plan for seniors and other certain qualified individuals. Together, these two health care plans provide coverage to millions of people who might not otherwise have health insurance.
Medicaid eligibility is defined at the state level, though certain federal eligibility factors do apply. Depending on your income and other personal factors, you might even qualify for combined Medicare/Medicaid plans.
Adults are only eligible to purchase Medicaid insurance if their household income meets the limits imposed by their state. However, all children are eligible for this plan if they live in a household with an income less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).
You can apply for Medicaid at any time of the year. There are no enrollment periods with this type of health insurance plan.
Medicare coverage, on the other hand, is available to the following groups of people:
- Seniors aged 65 or older
- Young people with certain disabilities
- Anyone with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
You can apply for Medicare upon turning 65. If you are applying based on another eligibility factor, such as a disability, you can apply after receiving an official diagnosis.
Children belonging to low-income households may qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP. This health insurance program is a branch of the Medicaid program and provides insurance to kids from families whose income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to purchase insurance on their own. CHIP eligibility guidelines vary by state.