Retirement is supposed to be a time of relaxation, a time of reward for a life spent working hard to achieve something for yourself and be a benefit to society. Unfortunately, when people turn 65 they discover that retirement isn’t quite as simple as it should be. They’re subject to a lot of confusing choices and terms like Medicare and Medicaid, and aren’t sure how to choose a plan or even what the difference is. Learn about the differences between Medicare and Medicaid, and how a qualified elder law and Medicare lawyer can help you make the right choice.

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare and Medicaid are both important parts of retirement healthcare options, but it can be confusing to many retirees where one stops and the other starts. It doesn’t help that the two terms sound so similar. Too many people mistakenly use the terms interchangeably or think they’re the same thing, when in fact they’re completely different.


Medicare is, essentially, your health care program when you retire. Everyone aged 65 automatically gets signed up for Medicare A and B so long as they have worked for ten years and paid social security taxes during that time. People can choose a different Medicare plan—Plan C or Advanced—if they wish, which provides different coverage at a different cost.

At its most basic level, Medicare works the same as your pre-retirement insurance, PPO or HMO, paying most of your medical bills at the exchange of a premium and copay. It gets a bit more complex than that, but that’s the basics.


Medicaid, on the other hand, is a government assistance program which is available to people of all ages, if they meet certain eligibility requirements (often income or disability-related). Under Medicaid, patients are usually entirely covered for their medical expenses, paying out only a small co-payment.

This program is sponsored by both the federal government and the states, and as such it varies by state. Federal guidelines dictate how the program should run and set minimum standards of care, and state and local governments administer the programs. One of the most well-known implementations of Medicaid is CHIP, or Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Applying for the Programs

It’s often advisable for the elderly to apply for Medicaid, even if they already receive Medicare. This can be done through the government’s website or by searching the state’s health and human services site. It can, however, be difficult to understand the intricacies of choosing between the two, or in fact carrying both. Many people find it helpful to secure the services of an experienced and qualified Medicare lawyer to learn the differences, details and how to choose between the broad variety of services available.

Planning for the future is always important, but never more than when you reach retirement age. If you live in the Cuyahoga County area and need help with your Medicare, Medicaid or estate planning, read about the services Stano Law Firm offers, and get in touch with us for more information today!