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Need to apply for federal health insurance but aren’t sure where to start? Medicare and Medicaid offer different coverage for different groups of people. In this article, we’ll learn which one would be better for you, and how to apply to each.

How to Apply for Medicare

Medicare is the federal health insurance plan for people aged 65 and older. Those younger than 65 can qualify if they have certain disabilities or medical conditions.

To apply for Medicare, follow these three steps.

1. Verify Eligibility

To apply for Medicare, you need to be 65 years old or 3 months away from turning 65. Medicare will send you a packet 3 months before your 65th birthday so you have the information you need. The packet will include information, deadlines, and actions to take.

2. Apply Online

If you already receive social security benefits, you’ll get Medicare Part A and B automatically. If you’re not receiving social security, you’ll need to apply. Applying online is the fastest and easiest way to sign up for Medicare benefits. Visit the Social Security Administration website during the enrollment period. The Social Security Office will review your records to verify that you qualify for Medicare. There’s a general enrollment period where you can enroll if you have Part A coverage, and the open enrollment period from October 15 to December 7th. If you enroll during this time, your coverage will start on January 1st . Certain life events can qualify you to apply during the Special Enrollment period, such as if you lose other insurance. You can sign up for Medicare Part A and B in the online application.

3. Apply for Supplemental Insurance

Private insurance companies offer Medicare supplements that help pay coinsurances, deductibles, and out-of-pocket copays. Medicare Advantage Plan, previously known as Part C, includes all the benefits of Medicare Parts A and B but adds prescription drug, vision, dental, and hearing into the plan. Medicare Part D helps cover prescription drugs.

How to Apply for Medicaid

Medicaid is the state and federal insurance program for adults with low income, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and people aged 65 or older.

To apply for Medicaid, follow these two steps.

1. Verify Eligibility

Medicaid’s eligibility varies by state, so check your state Medicaid website to see if your family qualifies. Medicaid provides coverage for the elderly, low-income households, families with children, pregnant mothers, and those with disabilities. You can use the Income Levels & Savings tool online to see if you qualify based on income level. All Medicaid programs follow similar guidelines, but the costs and coverage vary by state.

2. Apply Online

Once you know you’re eligible, you can apply for Medicaid through your state agency or the health insurance marketplace online. Visit the Government Healthcare website to take you to the Medicaid landing page for your state. To apply through the marketplace, create an account, fill out an online application, and they will contact your state agency to guide you through enrollment. The marketplace application will also tell you if you qualify for individual insurance plans based on your income.

Do you still have more questions? Contact your state’s Social Security or Medicaid department, and they will be able to help you find and enroll in health insurance that’s right for you.