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Los Angeles County Elder Lawyer Answers, “What is the difference between Medicare and Medi-Cal?”

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Medicare and Medi-Cal are two options for government-subsidized health care available to California seniors. However, they provide two very different sets of benefits, and just because you may qualify for one does not necessarily mean you’ll qualify for the other. Below is a list of the differences between the two programs and how, depending on your situation or a loved one’s situation, you can use one or both to your advantage.


Medi-Cal is the term for Medicaid in California. It is a federal program meant to help older and disabled Californians, among others, who cannot otherwise afford health care coverage due to low income levels. Medi-Cal can be used to pay for long term care services, either at a skilled nursing facility or in the home, as well as help with the activities of daily living (eating, dressing, bathing, grooming, toileting, transferring, and taking medication). Unlike Medicare, there are strict income and asset limits attached to Medi-Cal eligibility, as financial need is the most important qualifying factor. A Los Angeles County elder law attorney can advise you on the best way to plan for Medi-Cal benefits for yourself or a loved one through different methods such as spending down assets and creating certain types of irrevocable trusts. Each situation is different so it’s important to speak with an elder law attorney who is experienced in Medicaid law.


Medicare is another federal program that provides health care coverage to Californians over the age of 65. Medicare covers a number of health care concerns, including but not limited to hospital and nursing home stays, doctor visits, and medication. There are three very big differences between Medi-Cal and Medicare: the first is that there is no income or asset limit attached to Medicare, as it is available to all Californians over the age of 65. The second is that Medicare does not cover long term stays in a skilled nursing facility or care in the home for an extended period. Lastly, Medicare will not cover any of care needed for assistance with activities of daily living. You can speak with Gerry Kane, an experienced elder law attorney to determine how to use Medicare to its fullest advantage, either alone or in conjunction with Medi-Cal, when planning care for yourself or a loved one.

If you’re interested in learning more about Medicare or Medi-Cal, or if a loved one is currently in a situation where either program may help but you’re unsure on how to proceed, please call the Law Offices of Gerald L. Kane at our Encino elder law office at (818) 905-6088 to set up an appointment to speak with an elder law attorney.