The rising cost of essential health care services and medication, longer life expectancy and an increase in multigenerational living have had a significant impact on how Americans approach their healthcare options. Medicare and Medicaid are two publicly funded programs available to qualifying seniors and people with disabilities that aim to assist vulnerable individuals to cope.

However, many people do not fully understand the difference between these two options. Here is a quick overview of who is eligible for each program and what types of assistance each organization covers.

Medicare primarily aids senior citizens

While Medicare is a federally run insurance program that aims to assist U.S. citizens over the age of 65, Medicaid is a program run by each state that assists low-income individuals and those with a serious disability. American citizens who have paid into Social Security are automatically eligible once they reach retirement age, regardless of their financial circumstances. Those with a terminal or long-term disability may also be eligible before the age of 65.

Medicaid offers assistance for qualifying citizens of any age

Medicaid is primarily meant for low-income individuals and families and those with a severe disability that prevents them from working. Each state organizes its program differently. In Georgia, the eligibility requirements are especially strict. While each circumstance is different, generally, a qualifying individual must have a monthly income of no more than $2,100 and assets of no more than $2,000.

Creating the best long-term care outcomes

Medicare benefits include coverage for hospital visits, doctor fees, lab costs, prescription drugs and other types of skilled, specialized care in the short term. However, elderly and disabled individuals often require long-term care and help with daily tasks. Those with low income and few assets may be able to seek benefits through Medicaid to help cover the costs of a nursing facility or in-home care.

However, these services can be expensive, especially in the long term. In addition to researching assistance available from public programs, individuals facing retirement may want to speak with an estate planning agent to discuss potential private payment options.