Q: What are the differences between MassHealth, Medicaid, and Medicare?

A: That’s something that people often get confused about – Medicare vs. Medicaid, or MassHealth.

So I’ll start by saying that MassHealth and Medicaid are the same thing. In Massachusetts, we call our Medicaid program MassHealth, because we wanted our own name for it. Some other states also have their own names, while others just call it Medicaid.

Corinne Lofchie

I had a teacher once who explained the difference between Medicare and Medicaid to me this way, and it stuck with me: Medicare – we care for the elderly and disabled, and Medicaid – we aid the poor. The creators of the programs set them up with that intention.

Medicaid is primarily based on income, although there are other factors that apply. Medicare is primarily based on your age and whether or not you have a disability. So it’s mostly for those 65 and older, or younger people with disabilities.

MassHealth funds many programs for people who need care. It covers costs of long-term care, either in a nursing home or at home.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program that comes in several parts. Part A is hospital insurance, which covers inpatient stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice and some home health care. Part B is medical insurance, which covers some doctor services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventative services. Part D offers prescription drug coverage.

As part of our Aging Information Center, one of the things we do is health insurance counseling. It’s a free service that’s open to anyone who’s looking for assistance around Medicare and MassHealth planning – there are no guidelines in terms of eligibility. If you’re around age 65, we encourage you to give us a call so we can help you figure out who you need to talk to and how to do that planning.


Corinne Lofchie, LICSW is an Elder Care Advisor at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, check out the Things to Know When Turning 65 episode of Aging Well at the SCES Youtube Channel, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 or info@eldercare.org for free advice and guidance.