In Elder Law News

Dollar bill ripped open to reveal the word Medicaid.In the complex and frequently changing landscape of health care in the United States, Medicaid stands out as a vital program. Since 1965, it has provided essential coverage to millions of low-income individuals and families. Alongside Medicare, Medicaid serves as a lifeline for those who may otherwise struggle to afford health care services.

Though Medicaid exists to help those who need it, navigating the specifics of what it covers and does not cover can be daunting. This article highlights the basics of Medicaid coverage, shedding light on its benefits and limitations.

The Basics of Medicaid

Medicaid offers health care coverage to individuals and families with limited income and relatively few assets. The program provides a wide range of medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, and preventive care. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program, so each state has the flexibility to administer the program differently within broad federal guidelines.

The eligibility criteria for Medicaid benefits can therefore vary from state to state. Generally, they relate to factors such as income, household size, disability status, and age. Some groups, such as children and pregnant women, may qualify based solely on income. Others, such as seniors and people with disabilities, may need to meet additional criteria.

Services covered by Medicaid also vary from state to state. Each state is required by federal law to provide Medicaid’s mandatory benefits. However, you cannot necessarily assume your state will cover the specific medical care you need.

The following benefits are provided as a guideline. Partner with a professional with expertise in your state’s Medicaid rules to ensure you get the most suitable coverage.

What Medicaid May Cover in Your State

Doctor Visits and Preventive Care

Medicaid should cover visits to primary care physicians, specialists, and other health care providers for preventive services. This may include vaccinations, screenings, and wellness exams.

Hospital Services

Medicaid coverage for inpatient and outpatient hospital care may include emergency room visits, surgeries, and medically necessary treatments.

Transportation to Medical Care

Medicaid generally covers the costs of emergency and non-emergency transportation to and from medical appointments and services that are covered by Medicaid.

Prescription Drugs

Medicaid provides coverage for a wide range of prescription medications deemed medically necessary by health care providers. However, coverage may vary depending on your state's specific guidelines.

Laboratory and Diagnostic Services

Medicaid may cover laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging, and other medical tests necessary for diagnosis and treatment.

Maternity and Newborn Care

Pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid receive comprehensive prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care, as well as coverage for newborn care.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Mental health services may be eligible for Medicaid coverage. These may include counseling, therapy, and psychiatric care, as well as treatment for substance abuse disorders.

Long-Term Care

Medicaid provides coverage for long-term care services. This includes care in nursing facilities and home health services for eligible individuals who require assistance with daily activities. Individuals may qualify for these services because of age, disability, or chronic illness.

Dental and Vision Care

Coverage for dental and vision services varies by state. Medicaid often includes preventive and basic dental care for children and limited coverage for adults. Vision care may include exams and eyeglasses for children.

What Does Medicaid Not Cover?

Cosmetic Procedures

Medicaid typically does not cover elective cosmetic procedures or treatments that are considered purely cosmetic in nature and not medically necessary.

Experimental or Investigational Treatments

Medicaid does not cover experimental or investigational treatments that have not been proven effective or approved by regulatory agencies.

Certain Types of Care

Though Medicaid covers a wide range of services, there are limitations on certain types of care, such as infertility treatments, elective abortions, and some types of alternative medicine. For example, the federal government lists family planning as a mandatory service benefit, but states interpret this differently.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Though some states offer limited transportation assistance for medical appointments, Medicaid may not cover non-emergency transportation to health care facilities.

Out-of-Network Providers

Medicaid typically requires beneficiaries to receive care from providers within the program's network. Out-of-network care may not be covered except in emergency situations or with prior authorization.

Certain Prescription Drugs

Though Medicaid covers a broad range of prescription medications, coverage may be limited for certain drugs, particularly brand-name medications.

Routine Foot Care

Medicaid often does not cover routine foot care unless it is medically necessary. For example, treatments such as nail trimming, callus removal, or orthopedic shoes may be covered only for Medicaid beneficiaries with a specific condition, such as diabetes.

Seek Expert Advice on Medicaid

Medicaid plays a crucial role in ensuring access to health care for millions of vulnerable individuals and families nationwide. By covering a wide range of essential medical services, Medicaid helps improve the health of eligible beneficiaries. It also alleviates financial burdens for people with low income who may otherwise struggle to afford care.

Though Medicaid covers many services, exclusions and limitations could result in unexpected costs or denials of coverage. Be sure you understand the scope and limitations of Medicaid coverage in your state so you can make informed decisions about your health care needs and costs.

Contact an experienced elder law attorney near you today to talk further about Medicaid. They can walk you through the benefits that may be available to you and help you understand how you can qualify for coverage.

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