Medicare and Medicaid Decoded

Nearly half (44 percent) of adults surveyed recently said they were concerned about paying for the care they might need as they get older. That’s not surprising, since health care costs continue to rise and insurance options are increasingly complicated. Fortunately, there are resources to help, both with your planning and your payments.

For many, Medicare and Medicaid will be an important part of the financial equation. These government administered health insurance programs help individuals and families with some of the costs of care, but it’s important to know exactly what they do and don’t cover so you aren’t stuck with an unexpected bill.

There’s a lot of helpful information about Medicare and Medicaid right here on, including links to other useful online resources. But if you’re just getting started, it’s best to begin with the basics. Here are three of the most frequently asked questions about the programs, and their answers:

Q: What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
A: Anyone over the age of 65 qualifies for Medicare. To quality for Medicaid, you must prove that your income is below a certain amount. It is possible to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Q: Does Medicare pay for long-term care, like assisted living?
A: No, the program does not pay for long-term care options like assisted living. For that reason, many people supplement Medicare with private long-term care insurance.

Q: What about short-term care, like skilled nursing care after a surgery? Does Medicare cover that?
A: Yes, in some cases Medicare will cover skilled nursing care or rehabilitative care. But, to receive those benefits the patient must be admitted to a hospital for at least a three-night stay just before entering a skilled nursing center. A discharge planner is a good person to talk to about the transition from the hospital to a skilled nursing center.

This post was originally published by Care Conversations, a program that helps families talk about health, aging and long-term care plans. For more information like this, visit