Navigating the world of medical insurance can be tricky, especially since there are so many different kinds of health insurance and companies that provide them. Medicare and Medicaid, however, are government-provided and do not require premiums. How are these types of health insurance different from each other, and how can you sign up for them? First, let’s familiarize ourselves with each policy.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a form of health insurance made specifically for people 65 or older, although this rule is not guaranteed for younger individuals. For people with severe disabilities that may need help going to the bathroom, dressing, or doing any other basic activities, the Medicare and social security application processes are available for both the patient in question and their permanent caretaker. Although the application process for Medicare is simple—you just need to call your local social security office—the time it takes for your application to be approved varies. While some applications are approved right away, others can take over a year to work through. Timing is crucial, so file your application as soon as possible!

On its own, Medicare is nothing special, but what makes it stand out are Medicare supplements. These supplements are the same regardless of your home state, and are typically premium-free, with some deductibles as needed. Medicare supplements cover inpatient hospital visits, outpatient visits, and prescription items like medication, wheelchairs, or walking aids.

Medicare supplements can also cover alternate forms of care as well, like nursing homes or at-home caretakers for seniors. Regardless of supplements, the Medicare program is based on how much the policyholder puts into their social security deposit. This means that sometimes there may be deductibles for services and products, though their costs are greatly reduced.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid, on the other hand, is the government’s basic health insurance plan for low-income households. While coverage varies from state to state, there are a few constants to coverage policies, and the plan itself will always be free of monthly premiums since it is paid for by national taxes. The program itself is distributed by private companies within the policyholder’s home state, so coverage may vary based on location. For example, New York State’s Medicaid policy covers dental work, while other states’ policies may not.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid has a wider range of coverage at its core. Without Medicare supplements, prescriptions and home care are not easily available and must be paid for out of pocket. Medicaid however, does not have supplements and can cover prescription medications and supplies like insulin pumps and diabetic test kits, birth control, and hearing aids. That said, Medicaid isn’t available to everyone; you must meet specific income guidelines to qualify. On the other hand, any senior can qualify for Medicare.

Just like Medicare, signing up for Medicaid is simple. To apply, have your tax information at the ready, and contact your local Medicaid provider. Although there isn’t a specific number to call, the Medicaid enrollment process is much quicker than Medicare’s.

The Benefits of Both

If you are enrolled or are planning to enroll in both Medicare and Medicaid, you have almost universal coverage. Since both types of insurance can cover the other’s gaps in coverage, the two policies work well in giving users the most coverage at the lowest cost.

For example, certain pain medications or allergy medicines are not fully covered by Medicaid. However, with a Medicare supplement, policyholders can eliminate or lower the copay for these medications. Home care services provided by Medicare part C are not covered under some states’ Medicaid policies, and some practitioners do not take Medicaid as a viable insurance policy for care.

In this case, Medicare services will be more likely to cover expenses, since more doctors across the country accept Medicare. On the other hand, mental health services like counseling and group therapies are not covered by Medicare but are covered under Medicaid’s policies.

If you are looking to enroll in Medicare or Medicaid, speak to your doctor and local providers. To browse care products covered by both Medicare and Medicaid, check out Medical Supply Depot.