What is the difference between Medicare and Medi-Cal? How do I know which one I have?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people age 65 years or older and younger people with disabilities. Most people get Medicare because they are eligible for Social Security retirement or disability insurance benefits. The program is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare sends beneficiaries a red, white and blue card. The card includes your name, Medicare claim number, and the dates your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) began. If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for Medicare, go to your local Social Security office or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.

Medi-Cal is a state health care program for certain individuals and families who are low income and have limited resources. People who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), CalWORKs, refugee or foster care assistance automatically qualify for Medi-Cal. Others who are 65 years or older, blind, disabled, pregnant, under 21, a parent of someone under 21 or in nursing homes may also be eligible. The Medi-Cal program is administered by the California Department of Health Care Services. Medi-Cal sends beneficiaries a white and blue beneficiary identification card. To apply for Medi-Cal, contact your local county social services office.

Many people have both Medicare and Medi-Cal. Medicare and Medi-Cal work together to help pay for your care. Medicare pays first and Medi-Cal pays second. Always present both cards when obtaining medical care. As long as you go to providers who accept both types of insurance (as well as contract with any managed care plans you are in, if any), you should not have to pay anything for your medical care except for small Part D prescription drug co-pays.

For more information on how Medicare and Medi-Cal work together you can read the California Health Advocates Fact Sheet Low Income Assistance Medi-Cal (for people with Medicare).

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