What do we mean by “Medicaid” in New Jersey?

This is part of a series of posts, published on Tuesdays, regarding Medicaid and elder law topics of general interest in New Jersey.

“Medicaid” is an entitlement program (meaning the government gives it away to people). It is, however, not a “social insurance” program in the way that Social Security and Medicare are. Social Security are automatically available to you once you reach a certain age, and there are no additional requirements. You also have to pay in to those programs through automatic deductions from your paycheck.

Medicaid on the other hand is a program funded through both the federal and state governments that allows for health insurance, medical care, and cash payments in some cases. However, in order to qualify for Medicaid, a person must meet specific financial and/or medical standards. The programs cost the state government a lot of money, and so the state’s guidelines are strict. Each county’s Board of Social Services (or County Welfare Agency) administers these guidelines very carefully, although sometimes there is variation in some of the marginal issues depending on which county you go to.

When this blog discusses “Medicaid” in an elder law context, though, what is mainly being referred to is something called the “Medicaid Only” or “Medically Needy” programs. They mean that an applicant is only looking for the government to pay for the cost of care, and not to provide cash or other benefits (food stamps or the like).  Each of those programs have different asset limits but they are certainly lower than the assets most seniors currently have saved for retirement.

In short: If you see the word “Medicaid” used without reference to assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, some of the information presented there might not be accurate for your particular case.

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