What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a government funded, needs-based program designed to pay for nursing home care and other long-term care for those who cannot afford it themselves.  Until recently, Medicaid was only available for long-term care in a skilled nursing facility.  many states have now adopted (or are adopting) laws that extend Medicaid coverage to care at h home, in assisted living facilities, or in other residential care options beyond nursing homes.  To qualify for Medicaid, you must be "indigent," which means that you have limited income, almost no savings, and only those assets that the government permits (known as "exempt" assets).  In addition, you must be functionally impaired so as to need significant help with your daily living needs.


Although Medicaid is a federal program, Medicaid benefits are administered by the states.  The law gives each state some latitude in determining whether an individual is indigent and eligible for Medicaid benefits.  To determine if an individual is indigent, the state will examine whether the individual meets the state’s income and asset tests.  There are different tests depending upon whether the person applying for benefits is single or married.  Medicaid benefits are also only available for U.S. citizens and qualified aliens.  Also, it is important not to confuse the benefits provided by Medicaid with the benefits provided by a different federal program, Medicare.