Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: Introduction to Medicaid

This issue brief from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities provides an overview of the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides health insurance coverage for low-income individuals and families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. It is jointly funded by the federal government and each of the states. While there are broad federal guidelines, each state has significant flexibility in designing and administering their own Medicaid programs. As a result, while eligibility and benefits vary from state to state, there are common eligibility and benefits rules that apply to all Medicaid programs, including determination of income for eligibility, mandatory health services covered, and due process rights in cases of denials of coverage or specific treatments and procedures.

Medicaid is an entitlement program, which means that all Americans who meet the eligibility requirements have a right to receive Medicaid, and that states are guaranteed federal financial support for part of their costs in providing Medicaid to the residents of their state. This is important because Medicaid is an economically counter-cyclical program: during economic downturns, more individuals are unemployed and uninsured, and have lower incomes, and need to rely on Medicaid.

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