Switching State Medicaid: How and When to Transfer Benefits

In this article...
  • When relocating to a new state, it's important to transfer your Medicaid benefits to maintain health insurance coverage. Find out what to do to stay covered.
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Can I Use My Medicaid Coverage in Any State?

In most cases, Medicaid will not cover services that you receive outside of the state where you live. Although Medicaid is a joint federal and state program, each state administers its own Medicaid program. As a result, eligibility and benefits vary widely by state. Each state also has its own network of providers. If you are temporarily out of state, Medicaid will generally only cover services if you encounter a medical emergency that is life-threatening and requires immediate care.

How Do I Switch My Medicaid Coverage From One State to Another?

Because each state has its own Medicaid eligibility requirements, there is no option that allows you to switch Medicaid coverage from one state to another. Therefore, you should reapply for Medicaid in the state where you're planning to live. Keep in mind that while you may qualify for Medicaid coverage in one state, you might not qualify in another, so it’s important to research eligibility requirements before you move. Additionally, you cannot be eligible to receive Medicaid benefits in two states at the same time. You will therefore need to terminate your original Medicaid coverage before applying for Medicaid in your new state. 

How Long Does It Take to Transfer Medicaid to Another State?

How long it takes to switch state Medicaid coverage depends on the state in which you're applying for coverage. After submitting an application, it usually takes between 15 and 90 days to receive a letter of approval. Most states offer retroactive Medicaid coverage, meaning you can receive coverage for medical services prior to the date of your application’s approval. However, you may need to pay for services out of pocket until the retroactive coverage begins. For this reason, it's important to keep all the medical bills and receipts that you receive while you are waiting for Medicaid approval.

Are Medicaid Benefits the Same From State to State?

Each state administers its own Medicaid benefits, but federal rules require all states to provide certain mandatory services. Examples of mandatory benefits include inpatient and outpatient hospital services, doctor visits, lab and X-rays, home health services and nursing facility services for adults, among other mandatory services. States are also required to cover a more comprehensive set of services for children under age 21. 

States can choose to cover additional optional benefits that are not required by federal law. For example, federal rules do not require states to cover prescription drugs, but all state Medicaid programs offer prescription drug benefits. Other common optional benefits include dental care, vision services, hearing aids and personal care services for older adults and people with disabilities.