What Is Medicaid?


Quick Answer

Medicaid is a United States health care program that provides coverage to low-income American citizens. The program is federally mandated, but the implementation of it is carried out by each individual state government.

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Full Answer

Medicaid provides health coverage to tens of millions of Americans as of 2014. Some populations served by the program are seniors, people with disabilities, children and pregnant women.

Individuals apply to Medicaid through their state government. Federal law requires states to cover certain population groups, known as mandatory eligibility groups, and gives states the option of covering other groups, referred to as optional eligibility groups. States are free to set eligibility criteria for the latter groups within federal law. States are also allowed to apply for a waiver to expand Medicaid coverage to a larger range of populations.

Eligibility is usually calculated by income in relation to the Federal Poverty Level. Being enrolled in another assistance program, such as SSI, may also make individuals eligible for Medicaid. Some states also have "spend down" rules that allow individuals who would otherwise make too much money to qualify for Medicaid to deduct their medical expenses from their income to maintain their eligibility. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 expanded the eligibility criteria for Medicaid. These new provisions took effect in 2014.

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