Medicare vs. Medicaid vs. Social Security

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Difference between Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

Most people that are in need of financial assistance during times of crisis turn to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security for relief. It is interesting to note however that quite a few people are as yet unaware of their relative benefits and disadvantages and the circumstances that may make one more suitable than the others. If you are one of those people for whom these three services are a bit incomprehensible, this comparison should help clear things up.



Medicare is a program intended to help people 65 or older with medical costs. It can also be used in conjunction with the Social Security disability program. Medicaid on the other hand is intended specifically for low-income individuals, also 65 years and older, and can be used in conjunction with Medicare programs.

Social Security for its part doesn't offer funds for medical needs specifically, but rather serves as a pension for qualified contributors. There are very few eligibility requirements for Social Security, although applicants will have to be 65 to 67 years old.

Program Administration

Medicare is a federal program which means that the policies are the same throughout the country. You can get more information about Medicare from your local Social Security office. Medicaid on the other hand is a state run program, and as such, its rules differ from state-to-state. You can get information on Medicaid from county social services or welfare offices.

The Social Security service is a social insurance program, which draws funds from taxes deducted from the individual’s payroll, with a certain portion being paid by the employer.


Medicare covers many of the basic needs of hospital stays, including stays at nursing facilities. In some cases, it may even be used to pay for home health care. Certain plans under the Medicare program can be used to pay for basic physician fees and lab costs, and they may even be used for out-patient services.

Most people use Medicaid to pay for costs that Medicare won't cover. These include prescription medication, diagnostic procedures and other medical services.

Social Security for its part can be used for virtually anything the individual needs, including home care, assisted living, and nursing home care among others.



  • Can be used by almost everyone above 65 years of age
  • Can be used in conjunction with Social Security programs
  • Is a federally-funded program with the same rules all over the country
  • Available from the Social Security office
  • Provides coverage for hospital, nursing facility, and home stay
  • Pays for basic doctor fees and lab costs, along with out-patient services, equipment and supplies, home health care, prescription medications and even physical therapy


  • Can be used by low-income people
  • Applicable for people 65 or older
  • Can be used in conjunction with Medicare
  • Administered by the state government, with different rules in each state
  • Information available from social, welfare, or department of human services offices
  • In most cases, covers services and costs that Medicare does not cover

Social Security

  • A federally funded program
  • Can be used as retirement income for senior citizens
  • Funds are drawn from taxes deducted from the individual’s payroll
  • Currently the largest government program in the world
  • Largest expenditure in federal budget
  • Can be used for any purpose with virtually no restrictions

Which is best for seniors?
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Social Security

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