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Is Medicare Welfare?

In 1965, the United States established the government-sponsored programs Medicare and Medicaid. Both provide citizens with coverage for health care costs. However, only Medicaid is considered a welfare benefit.

Because Medicare is free to most beneficiaries upon reaching the age of 65, it is often confused as also being a welfare benefit. Medicare is definitely not welfare. To understand why Medicaid is considered welfare and not Medicare, we need to dig into the details of each program.

Welfare Defined

In general, welfare is defined as any government-sponsored program offered to individuals, families, or groups who are unable to support themselves. The United States funds dozens of different welfare programs. A few of the most prominent include:

  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps
  • Housing Assistance
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)

Some programs offer more than just enough to survive, such as the Pell Grant that offers up to $5,500 to low-income households. Eligibility for most welfare programs requires recipients to prove their income falls below the federal poverty level. For 2018, the federal poverty level has been set at $25,100 for a family of four.


Unlike Medicaid and other welfare programs, Medicare eligibility requires participants to pay into the Medicare and Social Security Funds for at least 10 years. Contributions to the funds are made through payroll taxes before turning 65. The only exceptions are for individuals of any age who have severe disabilities or end-stage renal disease.

The Medicare program includes four parts:

  • Part A– Hospitalization coverage
  • Part B– Medical insurance
  • Part C– Supplemental insurance (optional coverage with monthly premiums)
  • Part D– Prescription medications (optional coverage with monthly premiums)

Although most individuals will receive Medicare Parts A and B free later in life, they are actually receiving the benefits they had already paid for.


As a welfare program, Medicaid does not have any age restrictions. Medicaid is funded by the Federal government and administered by the states. The result is there are effectively 50 different programs. However, all program must provide the following mandated coverages:

  • X-rays
  • Hospitalization
  • Doctor services
  • Family planning
  • Clinic treatment
  • Nursing services
  • Home healthcare
  • Midwife services
  • Laboratory services
  • Pediatric/family nursing

States can expand on the coverages offered. Individuals and families covered under Medicaid do not pay premiums or any costs toward covered services.

Getting Covered

If you or your family meet the eligibility requirements for Medicaid, enrollment can be completed by visiting your local government administration office. Those approaching Medicare eligibility will be automatically enrolled in parts A and B. However, obtaining supplemental insurance coverage requires purchasing a private policy through a licensed insurance agent.

To learn more about your Medicare coverage options, contact the professionals at (844) 374-1950. Our licensed insurance experts will be happy to answer any questions you have.