Medicare and Medicaid

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Medicare and Medicaid have been in existence since the 1960s. These programs have helped millions of elderly citizens live in comfort and will continue to do so for many millions more. But the programs differ substantially, and you should not count on either of them to pay for all of your needs.

CAUTION: Both programs have undergone substantial revisions in recent years and will continue to evolve as the "baby boom" generation takes full advantage of them.

Understanding all of your options for private health benefits and public assistance is a huge undertaking. Be sure to consult with your physician and local Social Security Administration office for more information about Medicare and Medicaid.

TIP: The Social Security Administration has many brochures to help you better understand what the programs offer and what programs you are eligible for. The Administration also has counselors that can explain the benefits you are entitled to.

Here are some important contact phone numbers and Web sites:

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administer the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Call 877.267.2323 or visit
  • Medicare. Call 800.MEDICARE for direct questions about Medicare, or visit TTY users should call 877.486.2048.
  • Medicaid: For questions about your state’s Medicaid program, visit
  • State Health Insurance Assistance Programs. These state programs help the federal government administer health benefits. For a list of state Web sites and phone numbers, visit
  • Social Security Administration. For the nearest Social Security office, look in your yellow pages in the government pages. To reach the Social Security Administration, call 800.772.1213 or visit

Medicare offers many publications about its programs. You can order free publications online at or by calling 800.MEDICARE (800.633.4227). Some booklets are available in Spanish, in Braille, on audio cassette and large print (English and Spanish). TTY users should call 877.486.2048.

  • Medicare & You gives basic information about Medicare coverage, benefits, health plan choices and more (CMS Pub. No. 10050).
  • Medicare Coverage of Skilled Nursing Facility Care explains when and how much Medicare covers skilled nursing facility care (CMS Pub. No. 10153).
  • Medicare Hospice Benefits explains Medicare coverage of hospice care for people with terminal illnesses (CMS Pub. No. 02154).