Medicare, which is not the same as Medicaid or Medical Assistance, is now celebrating 50 years of providing affordable medical coverage to U.S. citizens or a permanent (5 years or more) residents. Medicare provides medical coverage to individuals 65 or older who are entitled to receive Social Security survivor or retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits when the individual or the individual's spouse has worked for at least 10 years in Medicare covered employment or who pays premiums for such coverage. In addition, an individual who is under 65 but has been collecting Social Security Disability benefits or Railroad disability for at least 25 months may also be eligible for Medicare.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). One can obtain Health Insurance Manuals (HIMs) and rulings which interpret the law and provide information to health care providers, fiscal intermediaries (insurance companies under contract to the federal government who pay Medicare claims), insurance carriers and state agencies through Social Security offices. To obtain more information, one can go to www.medicare.gov. You may also call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227).
Medicaid or Medical Assistance is a form of welfare for which you must meet certain eligibility requirements while Medicare provides health insurance coverage for older or disabled individuals. It can be helpful to discuss Medicare and how to become eligible for Medicaid with an elder law attorney as part of long term care planning, since Medicare may cover a small part of long term care costs.