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The Differences between Medicare and Medicaid

We’re explaining the main differences between Medicare and Medicaid—programs administered by the government that provide health care coverage.

What's the difference between medicare and medicaid?

Medicare and Medicaid are government programs that provide health care coverage to certain populations. Here’s an overview of who can benefit from the programs and the main differences between the two:


Medicaid is a federal- and state-funded program that provides health care coverage for low-income individuals and families, families with children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Medicaid recipients must qualify through a redetermination process that occurs every 12 months. Individuals and families must report any adjustments to annual income while on a Medicaid plan.

If you meet income requirements, Medicaid eligibility can cover the entire household. If a family’s household income exceeds the limits for Medicaid eligibility, yet the family cannot afford to purchase private health insurance, children up to the age of 19 can be covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For CHIP eligibility information, visit medicaid.gov/chip.
Medicaid benefits can vary state to state and most plans include behavioral health benefits. For more information about Medicaid, visit medicaid.gov. To find individual or in-person help in Utah, visit takecareutah.org and enter your ZIP code to locate a representative who can help you apply for Medicaid.


Medicare is a federally funded program that covers adults age 65 or older, younger people with disabilities, and those with End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis). At age 65, you are eligible for premium-free Part A Medicare coverage if you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years. There is a premium required for Part B coverage.

You can enroll for Medicare when you turn 65 (either three months before your birth date, the month of your birth date, or three months after your birth month). If you don’t enroll during this time period, you can enroll each year from January to March, but waiting to enroll could incur a late enrollment penalty fee.

Medicare coverage is only for individuals—it does not cover an entire family or household. The Medicare program has different types of coverage:

• Part A – inpatient coverage
• Part B – medical coverage, outpatient procedures, and office visits
• Part C – Medicare advantage plans
     o Private health plans approved by Medicare, administered by a third party
     o Benefits can vary but must offer all services that Original Medicare covers
     o May require a monthly premium
     o May include Part D (prescription) benefits
• Part D – prescription drug plan that is supplemental to Parts A and B

In some instances, individuals may qualify for coverage on Medicare and Medicaid—this is called dual coverage. People age 65 and older who also meet income requirements may be eligible for dual coverage. In dual coverage situations, Medicaid is always secondary to Medicare or any other commercial coverage.

For more information about Medicare benefits, visit medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE. For help finding a SelectHealth Advantage plan, call us at 855-442-9940.

For information on our medical and dental plans, visit selecthealth.org/plans.

SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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Post Author

Sandy Patton

Sandy is a Marketing Communications Specialist and has been with SelectHealth for 15 years. Her prior roles include health education and wellness coaching.