The terms Medicare and Medicaid are confusing because the names are similar but the federal programs are set up for different purposes. Medicare is the federal healthcare insurance plan that covers senior citizens age 65 and over as well as younger people who qualify for Social Security disability payments. Medicare is partially funded by required payroll deductions from all employed persons and the remainder of the costs are paid from the federal budget.
Medicaid, on the other hand, helps to pay healthcare costs for low-income individuals who do not have health insurance and some disabled persons are eligible for Medicaid. An important part of Medicaid is coverage for long-term care in a nursing home for persons 65 years of age and older. Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government and the rest of the costs comes from the state government where the individual resides. Because Medicaid programs and funding are controlled by each state, there is great variation in the benefits available to Medicaid recipients as well as eligibility requirements. However, some of the eligibility requirements are set at the federal level.
Meeting eligibility requirements for Medicaid might be straightforward for a low-income single parent family but other individuals may face significant financial scrutiny before being allowed Medicaid benefits, especially nursing home care. For example, even though an individual meets the current Medicaid income requirement, about $2,000 per month in income or less, the program also looks at assets as well as examining the individual’s financial record for the past five years, called the five-year look back period.
Anyone who has difficulty with Medicaid eligibility and receiving Medicaid benefits needs the assistance of a Medicaid attorney. A Medicaid attorney is a lawyer who specializes in assisting qualified individuals through the Medicaid eligibility process. In addition, a Medicaid attorney can assist senior couples plan their estate so that the family finances will not be depleted should one spouse need extended nursing home care. This type of estate planning should be handled by a specialist in Medicaid laws, a Medicaid attorney.