Medicare vs. Medi-Cal
What's the Difference?

Medicare is a federally governed health insurance program. Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, is an assistance program governed by the State of California and financed equally by the state and federal governments.


Medicare is the federally funded health insurance program for:

  • People age 65 and older.
  • Certain younger people under age 65 with certain disabilities.
  • People of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant).

There are four parts of Medicare that cover specific services:

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance)
  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance)
  • Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans)
  • Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)

Your application for Medicare is located at the Social Security office in your area or is available online here.


Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program, which is financed equally by the State and federal government. Medi-Cal is a public health insurance program that provides needed healthcare services for low-income individuals including:

  • Families with children
  • Seniors
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Foster care
  • Pregnant women
  • Low-income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS.

“Medi-Medi” or “Dual Eligible”

Some people qualify for both Medicare and Medi-Cal. People who qualify for both programs are called ‘dual eligible’ or “Medi-Medi.” Medi-Cal is sometimes used to help pay for Medicare premiums.