Differences Between Medicaid And Medicare Savings Programs For Seniors

Written By: Nathan Justice
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: April 28, 2023
Last updated: August 12, 2023

Understanding the differences between Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) for seniors is crucial to ensure they receive appropriate healthcare coverage and financial assistance. Both programs are designed to provide healthcare benefits to eligible seniors, but they differ in terms of their specific coverage, eligibility criteria, and application processes. 

This article will highlight the key differences between these two programs, helping seniors and their caregivers make informed decisions about their healthcare needs.

Differences Between Medicaid And Medicare Savings Programs For Seniors 

Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs for seniors are both government-sponsored programs that are designed to help low-income seniors pay for medical care and other health-related expenses. However, there are some major differences between the two programs. It’s important to understand the differences between these two programs in order to determine which option is best for you.


Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals, including seniors. Each state administers its own Medicaid program, which may offer varying benefits and eligibility criteria. Medicaid covers a wide range of healthcare services, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription medications, and long-term care services.

Medicare Savings Programs

MSPs are designed specifically to help eligible seniors with limited income and resources pay for some or all of their Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. There are four types of MSPs: Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB), Qualifying Individual (QI), and Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI).

Eligibility Criteria

To take advantage of these programs, it is important to first understand the eligibility criteria:


Eligibility for Medicaid is determined by various factors, including income, resources, age, disability, and citizenship status. Each state has its own income and resource limits, and seniors must meet these criteria to qualify for Medicaid. Additionally, seniors may qualify for Medicaid if they are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Medicare Savings Programs

Eligibility for MSPs is determined by the individual's income, resources, and enrollment in Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance). Seniors must meet specific income and resource limits to qualify for one of the four MSPs. These limits may vary slightly from state to state but are generally consistent across the country.

Coverage And Benefits of Medicaid and Medicare Savings Program 

Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs can also provide additional coverage and benefits to those who qualify. These benefits are discussed below:


Medicaid offers comprehensive healthcare coverage, including hospital care, doctor visits, prescription medications, mental health services, and long-term care services. Depending on the state, additional services like dental and vision care may also be covered. Medicaid may cover some services that Medicare does not, such as personal care services and transportation to medical appointments.

Medicare Savings Programs

MSPs provide financial assistance with Medicare costs, rather than offering a separate set of healthcare services. Depending on the specific MSP, seniors may receive help with their Medicare Part A and/or Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. Some MSPs may also cover Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plan) premiums, though this is not guaranteed.

Application Process

To take advantage of the medicare program, it is first crucial to understand the application process.


Seniors must apply for Medicaid through their state's Medicaid agency. The application process may involve submitting an online or paper application, providing proof of income, resources, citizenship, and other eligibility requirements. It is essential to contact the local Medicaid office for specific application procedures and required documentation.

Medicare Savings Programs

To apply for an MSP, seniors must contact their state's Medicaid agency. The application process may vary by state, but typically involves completing a form, providing proof of income, resources, and Medicare enrollment. Once approved, the MSP will begin assisting with Medicare costs as determined by the specific program.

Exploring The Differences Between Medicaid And Medicare Savings Programs

Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs both aim to provide healthcare assistance to seniors in need, but they differ significantly in terms of their coverage, eligibility, and application processes. While Medicaid offers comprehensive healthcare coverage, it is important to understand differences between Medicaid and Medicare Savings Program. 

MSPs specifically help with Medicare costs. Seniors and their caregivers should carefully evaluate both programs and their eligibility criteria to determine the most suitable option for their healthcare needs.

If you have a loved one with dementia and need to understand their Medicare coverage, visit Seniorstrong.org today to learn more about what Medicare covers and doesn't cover for dementia care.

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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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