How to Apply for Medicaid

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Medicaid can be applied for directly or through your state's online exchange. Find out what the requirements are to apply and who to contact for help.

Medicaid is the joint federal and state health insurance program for people with qualifying income and assets. Seniors with limited or low income can apply for Medicaid on its own to help pay for basic medical care or as a supplement that helps cover the extra costs Medicare leaves uncovered.

Each state administers its own Medicaid program, so terms and requirements for participation vary somewhat depending on location. As always, it's helpful to consult with a certified senior planner or benefits consultant before adding the Medicaid program to your comprehensive health coverage.

Find your state's Medicaid program information (eligibility, how to enroll, who to call for help) from, the official government website for the federal Medicaid program.

How to Apply for Medicaid

It is possible to apply for Medicaid through the benefits specialist at most hospitals and other health facilities, since the program is usually able to pay for medical costs already incurred. Most applicants, however, apply for Medicaid in one of two ways: directly or through an exchange.

Apply Directly With a State Medicaid Program

The most direct way to apply for Medicaid is to contact a state office directly and put in an application. This often requires a brief meeting with a benefits counselor or case worker to establish eligibility for the program. Some states take Medicaid applications online, while others require an in-person visit to a Social Security Administration (SSA) office.

In many states, applications for Medicaid can be taken at county Human Services offices. Seniors with limited ability to travel or manage their affairs may apply for Medicaid through an authorized representative, including the benefits coordinator at a residential care facility.

Apply Through

Many seniors apply for Medicaid online through, or through a state health insurance exchange. Not all states offer this service, and many still require proof of eligibility to be mailed.

Applying online through an exchange can be helpful for seniors with complex health coverage and insurance needs, as these exchanges often allow for easy comparisons across multiple plan types, including private issuers.

Medicaid Eligibility Requirements

State Medicaid programs require all applicants to be U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents and to live in the state where they apply for Medicaid. Beyond that, many states require Medicaid applicants to have a diagnosed medical need for care, along with meeting income and asset limits. Medical needs can include chronic medical conditions and various disabilities. Some states also automatically authorize Medicaid for children and pregnant women.

All states’ Medicaid programs impose maximum income and asset thresholds, though they do not all use the same standards. In states with a high overall cost of living, the maximum income allowed for Medicaid applicants tends to be higher than in less expensive states.

All Medicaid programs use the Federal Benefit Rate as a baseline, and then some raise the threshold by a fixed percentage. In 2020, the Federal Benefit Rate for a single adult is $9,396 a year. Married couples may earn up to $14,100 a year and still qualify for all means-tested benefits, including Medicaid.

Seniors whose income is above the Federal Benefit Rate can still apply for Medicaid. In most cases, states allow applicants to earn up to 300% of the federal government’s guidelines, though a progressively higher share of cost may be imposed as a condition of receiving benefits through Medicaid health plans.

Applicants who currently receive SSI/SSDI, nutrition assistance through SNAP, low-income housing aid or any of several other federal assistance programs are automatically eligible for Medicaid in most states.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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