Medicare is a federally administered health insurance program for people who are 65 or older. It also covers some people who are disabled. In order to be eligible for Medicare Part A, also known as hospital insurance, people over the age of 65 must be receiving Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board. Younger people typically qualify if they have been receiving Social Security disability benefits continuously for 24 months. People who want Medicare Part B, known as medical insurance, or Medicare Part D, which assists with the cost of prescription drugs, must meet the above eligibility requirements and pay a premium.
Medicare A covers skilled care for homebound people, hospice care, rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility for up to 20 days, and a portion of the cost of hospital care. It does not cover long-term custodial care in a nursing facility. Patients who need that type of care must pay for it from their own assets or, once their assets are depleted, file for their state’s medical assistance program.
Medicaid is a medical program for people who are elderly or disabled and have few assets and limited income. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid does cover the cost of long-term nursing home care for people who are no longer able to live in the community. Medicaid is funded through the federal government, but administered by the state, so each state has its own application form and its own criteria for qualification.
Federal law requires each state to try to recover the costs accrued by Medicaid patients. Medicare, however, is viewed as regular health insurance, and thus carries no similar recovery mandate. Therefore, Medicare will not take a person’s property to cover the cost of care provided. If your parent had Medicaid and lived in a nursing facility, however, the state probably will probably require that any property your parent owned be sold upon his or her death to recoup the cost of nursing home care.