People with special needs may qualify for a variety of government benefits, including Medicaid and Medicare. It can be difficult to tell the two programs apart, especially because their names are so similar.
Medicaid is a state and federal partnership program that gives medical coverage to selected groups with low-incomes — children, pregnant women, parents of eligible children, people with disabilities, and elderly in need of long-term care. In order to qualify for Medicaid, a person must generally have a low monthly income, and in certain cases he may not have many resources in his own name. Because eligibility is based on a person’s income and assets, Medicaid is known as a means-tested program.
Medicare is a health insurance system that is open any member of a qualifying group, regardless of income or assets. Although people over age 65 make up the majority of Medicare beneficiaries, younger people with disabilities can also qualify for Medicare benefits if they have been eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for at least two years. Even people who have not paid into the Social Security system could qualify for benefits on a parent’s work record in certain situations.