Common Misconceptions About Medicaid And Medicare Savings Program For Seniors

Written By: Nathan Justice
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: May 1, 2023
Last updated: December 8, 2023

Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) are essential government-funded healthcare initiatives aimed at providing financial assistance and medical coverage to seniors in the United States. Despite the crucial role they play in ensuring seniors' well-being, there are several misconceptions surrounding these programs that need to be debunked for the benefit of those who may be eligible for assistance.

In this blog, we examine the common misconceptions about Medicaid and Medicare Savings Program for seniors.

Misconception 1: Medicare And Medicaid Are The Same Thing

One common misconception is that Medicare and Medicaid are interchangeable terms. However, they are distinct programs with different objectives and eligibility requirements. Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed primarily for seniors aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities. 

On the other hand, Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage for low-income individuals and families, including seniors, disabled individuals, pregnant women, and children.

Misconception 2: Medicare Covers All Healthcare Expenses For Seniors

Another misconception is that Medicare covers all healthcare expenses for seniors. Although Medicare provides significant coverage, it does not cover all medical costs. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers hospitalization, skilled nursing care, and outpatient services, but it does not cover long-term care, dental care, vision care, or prescription medications. Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage, but it is an optional, separate plan that requires enrollment and may come with additional costs.

Misconception 3: MSPs Are Only For Low-Income Seniors

It is a common belief that Medicare Savings Programs are solely for low-income seniors. While MSPs do aim to provide financial assistance to individuals with limited resources, the income and asset limits vary by state and the specific MSP. Some states offer more generous income limits, which may enable seniors with modest incomes to qualify for assistance. It's important for seniors and their families to explore their state's MSP eligibility requirements to determine if they may be eligible for assistance.

Misconception 4: You Can't Have Both Medicare And Medicaid

Many people think that you cannot have both Medicare and Medicaid. This is not true. In fact, individuals who are eligible for both programs are known as "dual eligibles." These individuals receive benefits from both Medicare and Medicaid, with Medicaid typically covering costs not met by Medicare, such as long-term care and certain prescription drug costs.

Misconception 5: Enrolling In Medicaid Will Result In Reduced Medicare Benefits

Some seniors fear that enrolling in Medicaid will lead to a reduction in their Medicare benefits. This is not the case. Medicaid can supplement Medicare coverage by paying for services that Medicare does not cover or only partially covers, such as long-term care, dental care, and vision care. Additionally, Medicaid may cover Medicare premiums, deductibles, and copayments for eligible individuals, reducing out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

Misconception 6: Asset Transfers Can Help You Qualify For Medicaid

A common strategy to qualify for Medicaid is transferring assets to family members to meet the program's financial eligibility requirements. However, this tactic can backfire, as Medicaid has a five-year look-back period to determine if any assets were transferred to qualify for the program. If assets were transferred within this time frame, penalties may be imposed, which could delay or deny eligibility for Medicaid benefits.

Misconception 7: MSPs Automatically Cover All Medicare Costs

It's essential to understand that MSPs do not automatically cover all Medicare-related expenses. There are four distinct MSPs, each offering different levels of financial assistance: Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB), Qualifying Individual (QI), and Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI). Each program has specific eligibility criteria and covers different aspects of Medicare costs. For instance, QMB covers Medicare Part A and B premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, while SLMB and QI only cover Medicare Part B premiums. QDWI covers Medicare Part A premiums for certain disabled and working individuals. It is crucial to research each program thoroughly to determine which one best suits your needs.

Misconception 8: Homeownership Automatically Disqualifies You From Medicaid

Many seniors believe that owning a home will automatically disqualify them from receiving Medicaid benefits. This is not necessarily true. In most states, a primary residence is considered an exempt asset for Medicaid eligibility purposes, provided that the applicant or their spouse resides in the home. However, the equity value of the home may be subject to certain limits, which can vary by state. It is essential for seniors to consult with a knowledgeable professional to assess their specific situation and determine their eligibility for Medicaid.

Misconception 9: Medicare Advantage Plans Are The Same As Medicare Savings Programs

One of the most common misconceptions about Medicaid and Medicare Savings Program is that Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) and Medicare Savings Programs are the same due to their similar names. However, they serve different purposes. Medicare Advantage Plans are private insurance plans that provide an alternative way to receive Medicare benefits, often with additional coverage like dental, vision, and prescription drugs. 

In contrast, MSPs are government-funded programs that help eligible individuals pay for their Medicare expenses, such as premiums, deductibles, and copayments. It is important to understand the differences between these programs to make informed decisions about healthcare coverage.

Misconception 10: You Must Be A U.S. Citizen To Receive Medicaid Or Medicare Savings Program Benefits

While it is true that U.S. citizenship is a requirement for receiving Medicare benefits, there are exceptions for certain legal permanent residents who have resided in the country for at least five years. In the case of Medicaid, states have the option to provide coverage to eligible non-citizens, including legal permanent residents, refugees, and asylees. The rules surrounding non-citizen eligibility for Medicaid and MSPs can be complex and vary by state, so it is vital to consult with a knowledgeable professional to determine eligibility.

Debunking Common misconceptions About Medicaid And Medicare Savings Program

Understanding the truth behind these common misconceptions about Medicaid and Medicare Savings Program is essential to help seniors and their families make informed decisions about their healthcare coverage. By debunking these myths, seniors can better understand the options available to them and maximize the benefits they receive from Medicaid, Medicare, and Medicare Savings Programs. 

It is crucial to consult with knowledgeable professionals and conduct thorough research to ensure that accurate information is used to make the best possible healthcare decisions.

Learn more about the benefits available to seniors under Medicare. Visit SeniorStrong.org today to learn more about finding the perfect Medicare Part C plan that works best for you.

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Nathan Justice manages community outreach programs and forums that help many senior citizens. He completed a counseling program at the University of Maryland’s Department of Psychology.
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