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Unlike Medicare, which is fully regulated by the federal government, Medicaid is a joint program of both fed­eral and state governments. The federal government sets guidelines, and states establish their own rules and programs within these broad parameters.

Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid? Although you may feel you need a PhD. in government bureaucracy to understand it all, let’s take a basic approach and break it down to a “third-grade” level.

Since you may be called upon to decipher Medicaid for your parents, be sure to read a recent Forbes article titled “Medicaid And Your Parents: The Basics.

In general (third-grade) terms, Medicare is regulated totally by the federal government, and Medicaid is a joint program of both federal and state. The federal government sets the Medicaid guidelines, but the states will establish their own rules and programs within those boundaries.

Medicaid is “means-tested.” To qualify for Medicaid, an individual’s monthly income has to be below $2,000 or $3,000. His or her assets (not including a home, personal belongings, a car, and some other items) cannot be worth more than $2,000 to $15,000.

Remember: each state has its own threshold, within limits. In addition, the rules can vary not only by state, but also in some instances by county.

Sound complicated? It is. If you want the “Doctorate” version, speak to a qualified elder law attorney who specializes in this area to get the right answers and to discuss your specific situation.

Reference: Forbes (February 11, 2014): “Medicaid And Your Parents: The Basics

For more information on elder law and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.