In the United States, the Medicaid program was created in 1965 to help the impoverished citizens of the nation get help with expensive medical costs. Medicaid was developed with the same pen stroke that created Medicare, but the two programs are drastically different. While Medicare is designed as a program to provide senior citizens with health insurance; Medicaid on the other hand is designed to cover the costs of low income individuals regardless of age. Individuals who lack assets to cover their medical costs can apply for Medicaid through their state health office in charge of administering Medicaid.
Medicaid is a joint program run by both state and federal government offices. The federal government is largely responsible for acquiring and providing funding for the program. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is the federal entity responsible for overseeing Medicaid. State governments on the other hand are responsible for setting detailed guidelines for eligibility, determining eligibility, and running the program. Generally speaking, a state government’s public health office is in charge of Medicaid, which may have a different name depending upon the state. Certain states have given their Medicaid program a different name, such as Medi-Cal in California or MassHealth in Massachusetts.
Before any individual decides to apply for Medicaid, they need to look up the eligibility requirements and ensure that they meet the standards set forth by the federal and state governments. The major eligibility requirements include having a low income and little to no personal assets. Those individuals most often eligible for Medicaid within this group include:
• Families with a dependent child
• Pregnant women
• Those with disabilities
• Senior citizens
These eligibility standards are basic ones set forth by the federal government through the CMS. Since each state is in charge of administering their Medicaid program, there may be additional requirements for those looking to apply for Medicaid. For example, in some states individuals with Breast or Cervical Cancer qualify for Medicaid.
Individuals who wish to apply for Medicaid first need to make sure they have all the necessary information to provide with their application for coverage. The following are some of the most important items to provide when filling out an application:
• Social Security number
• Proof of disability (if applicable)
• Bank Statements
• Payroll information
• List of assets
Because financial standing is one of the most important factors in determining eligibility, it is very important for those applying for Medicaid to provide accurate and detailed information about their finances. Once this information has been gathered individuals need to acquire an application.
The best place to apply for Medicaid is at their local county health office. Because the program is administered at the state level, finding the county office in charge of Medicaid applications is the best option when it comes to starting the application process. Once an application has been completed, individuals will need a good deal of patience. By law, states are allowed a 45 day window in which to process an application. This can take as long as 90 days for those applicants with disabilities.
Individuals who have applied for Medicaid will not necessarily be left out in the cold while their application is processed. In most states there are local hospitals that will provide “free” medical care to those in need of it while their Medicaid application is pending.
Medicaid coverage is not indefinite once it has been received however. Most individuals will have their eligibility reviewed at least once a year to ensure they are still eligible for coverage. This does not mean however that beneficiaries need to apply for Medicaid all over again. State governments will often review an individual’s eligibility without their assistance. When doing so, government agencies are looking to see if there has been any change in a beneficiaries situation in life; in particular they will be looking for any change (positive or negative) in finances.
Medicaid may not be a perfect system as it does not cover every individual with low income or no assets. The program does however do all it can to provide assistance for those low income individuals who are most in need of medical attention. If you feel you are eligible for Medicaid, the best step you can take is to contact your state health department for eligibility requirements and an application.