Medi-Cal, the Medicaid program in California, provides health coverage to people with low-income and asset levels who meet certain eligibility requirements. While there are several ways to qualify for Medi-Cal, this section focuses only on Medi-Cal beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicare — individuals who are over a certain age and/or disabled. People who qualify for both Medicare and full Medi-Cal are known as “dual eligibles” or “Medi-Medis.”
Topics on this page:
- What Medi-Cal Covers
- Prescription Drugs
- Cal MediConnect
- How to Qualify
- Medi-Cal Programs
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Aged & Disabled Federal Poverty Level (A&D FPL) Program
- Medi-Cal with a Share of Cost (SOC)
- 250% California Working Disabled (CWD) Program
- How to Apply
1. What Medi-Cal Covers
Medi-Cal pays for “medically necessary” health care such as:
Medi-Cal will only cover these costs and services if you use providers that accept Medi-Cal. If you have both Medicare and Medi-Cal, Medicare is the primary payer (meaning Medicare will pay first for Medicare-covered benefits) and Medi-Cal is the secondary payer. If you qualify for full Medi-Cal (Medi-Cal without a share of cost (SOC)), Medi-Cal will also cover your Medicare Part A and B deductibles and copayments, and pay your monthly Medicare Part B premium. Learn more.
If you have both Medicare and Medi-Cal, how you receive your benefits depends on the county you live in.
For Medicare benefits, you may choose fee-for-service Original Medicare in all counties, or a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, if available in your county. If you choose an MA plan, the MA plan that works best for people with both Medicare and Medi-Cal is the Special Needs Plan (SNP) for dual eligibles or D-SNP. If you’re enrolled in a D-SNP, you do not have copays, coinsurance or premiums associated with other types of MA plans.
Another type of MA plan designed for people with both Medicare and Medi-Cal is a “look-alike” or “mirror” D-SNP. While others on Medicare can join this type of MA plan, the premiums, copayments, and co-insurance are waived for those on Medicare and Medi-Cal. For more information on MA plans, see our Medicare Advantage section.
For Medi-Cal benefits, in some counties, you must join a Medi-Cal managed care plan, but in other counties, you may use fee-for-service Medi-Cal. If you are in a county where you can choose both fee-for-service Medicare and Medi-Cal, make sure your doctor or hospital accepts Medi-Cal as well as Medicare. Present both your Medicare card and your Medi-Cal Benefits Identification Card (BIC) to your doctors and other providers when receiving services, so that they can bill Medicare and Medi-Cal directly. Medicare and Medi-Cal will make payments directly to the providers.
If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage D-SNP or a D-SNP “look-alike”, you must see doctors and other providers in the plan’s network except for emergency and urgent care.
Note that if you live in one of the following 7 counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo or Santa Clara), you have the option to receive your care in a different way due to California’s Coordinated Care Initiative. See our Cal MediConnect section.
If you are receiving both Medicare and Medi-Cal benefits, the Medicare Part D drug benefit will provide your prescription-drug coverage instead of Medi-Cal. You must be enrolled in a Medicare Part D drug plan or a Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan to get these benefits. (Note: if you are in Cal MediConnect, you will get your prescription drugs through your Cal MediConnect managed care plan.) Medi-Cal, however, will pay for certain categories of drugs not covered by Part D, including:
- Drugs used for smoking cessation
- Certain cough and cold drugs
- Certain over-the-counter drugs
- Vitamins and minerals
With Medicare Part D drug coverage, you must make copayments of no more than $1.25 for generic drugs and $8.50 brand name drugs in 2019. The Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) program, also known as the “Extra Help” program, will pay for part or all Medicare Part D drug-benefit plan premiums, depending on the plan in which you are enrolled. Learn more about the Extra Help program and the Medicare Part D drug benefit.
Cal MediConnect is a demonstration program with the goal of integrating care for people with both Medicare and Medi-Cal. The demonstration is happening in 7 selected counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo and Santa Clara, and began on various dates depending on the county.
Not all people Medi-Medis are eligible for the demonstration. Those who are may have the option to receive all their Medicare- and Medi-Cal-covered care through one managed care plan. Specifically, all Medicare Parts A, B, and D services (hospital care, outpatient care and prescription drug coverage) and all Medi-Cal services, including long-term care services and supports, are covered by one plan. Vision and transportation benefits will are included. If you are eligible for this demonstration, you can “opt out.” “Opting out” means you can choose to receive your Medicare benefits through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, but you must access your Medi-Cal benefits through a Medi-Cal managed care plan.
To find out if you qualify for one of Medi-Cal’s programs, look at your countable asset levels. You may have up to $2,000 in assets as an individual or $3,000 in assets as a couple. Some of your personal assets are not considered when determining whether you qualify for Medi-Cal coverage. For example, assets that do not count are:
- Your primary home
- One vehicle
- Household goods and personal belongings
- Life-insurance policy with a face value of $1,500 per person
- Prepaid burial plan (unlimited if irrevocable or up to $1,500 if revocable) and burial plot
If you meet the asset requirements, your income determines the Medi-Cal program for which you qualify. See next section.
|(Asset limits are the same for all programs:
Single: $2,000; Couple: $3,000)
|Program / Requirements||Your Monthly Income|
|Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
||Single: up to $931.72/mo.
Couple: up to $1,564.14/mo. Note: Higher income levels apply for individuals who are blind.
|Aged & Disabled Federal Poverty Level (A&D FPL) Program
||Single: up to $1,271/mo.
Couple: up to $1,720/mo.
|Medi-Cal with a Share of Cost (SOC)
||Single: over $1,271/mo.
Couple: over $1,720/mo.
|250% California Working Disabled (CWD)
||Single: up to $2,603/mo.
Couple: up to $3,523/mo. Note: Income excludes disability benefits
If you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you automatically qualify for full Medi-Cal coverage. To qualify for SSI, you must be age 65 or older, blind or disabled. Your countable monthly income may not exceed $931.72 for an individual or $1,564.14 for a couple (higher income levels apply for individuals who are blind).
If you are aged (65+) or disabled and are not eligible for the SSI program, you may be able to get Medi-Cal through the Aged & Disabled Federal Poverty Level (A&D FPL) program. To qualify, you must:
- Be aged (65+) or disabled (meet Social Security’s definition of disability, even if your disability is blindness).
- Have less than $2,000 in assets for an individual ($3,000 for a couple). Like SSI, this program does not count all of your assets. For more information, see our Medi-Cal Programs – Qualification at a Glance chart (above).
- Have less than $1,271 in countable monthly income for an individual ($1,720 for a couple).
If your monthly income is higher than the limits to qualify for SSI or the A&D FPL program (see above), but you meet the asset-level requirements, you may still be eligible for Medi-Cal with a share of cost (SOC). An SOC functions like a deductible. You must pay this amount in any month you incur medical costs. After your SOC is paid, Medi-Cal will pay the remaining amount of your medical bills for that month.
Note: A SOC is not a monthly premium. It is more like a deductible. It is the amount of medical expenses you are responsible to pay for before you can get full Medi-Cal coverage for the remainder of the month. If you have no medical expenses, you pay nothing.
Your SOC is determined according to your monthly income, using the following formula: Medi-Cal subtracts $600 (for an individual) or $934 (for a couple) from your monthly income, and any other health-insurance premiums you may be paying.
For example, if you have an individual monthly income of $1,300, Medi-Cal subtracts $600 for a SOC of $700. This means you must pay at least $700 in covered medical expenses and/or health care premiums in a given month before Medi-Cal covers any of your health care costs for that month. For people with a high SOC, Medi-Cal is mostly a form of catastrophic coverage, meaning Medi-Cal will most likely only help them for emergencies or high-cost medical conditions.
Note: If you have Medi-Cal with a SOC, Medi-Cal will not pay your Medicare Part B monthly premium. This means your Part B premium will be deducted from your Social Security check each month. One exception applies if you are in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP) that pays for your Part B premium (QMB, SLMB or QI). If you are in one of these MSPs, you will not be affected.
If you meet your SOC with medical costs in any given month, Medi-Cal will retroactively pay your Part B premiums for the month(s) in which the SOC is met. Medi-Cal will send the payment to the Social Security Administration (SSA), which will refund you the amount of the premium. Any Part B premium refund received from the SSA will be counted as a resource, not income, in the month you receive it.
The 250% California Working Disabled (CWD) program helps Californians who are working, disabled and have income too high to qualify for free Medi-Cal. Californians who qualify may be able to receive Medi-Cal by paying a small monthly premium based on their income. Premiums range from $20 to $250 per month for an individual or from $30 to $375 for a couple.
To qualify, you must:
- Meet the medical requirements of Social Security’s definition of disability.
- Be working and earning income (this can be part-time work).
- Have assets worth less than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. Note: IRS-approved retirement funds, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, are exempt and not counted.
- Have countable income less than 250% of the federal poverty level (in 2019, this equates to $2,603/mo. for individuals or $3,523/mo. for couples). Disability income does not count toward the limit, including:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Worker’s Compensation
- California State Disability Insurance (CSDI)
- Federal, state and private disability benefits
Also learn about how AB 1269 made the California Working Disabled program event better. This bill was signed into law in 2009 and became effective August 2011.
6. How to Apply
When you apply and qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at your local Social Security Administration office, you are automatically enrolled in Medi-Cal and will be sent a Benefits Identification Card (BIC). If you do not qualify for SSI, you may still qualify for Medi-Cal with or without a share of cost (SOC). Contact your Medi-Cal county office for more information.
If you or your spouse anticipates placement in a nursing home, contact your Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) county office to learn about the Medi-Cal rules for long-term care. These rules are very different than the rules that apply if you are not in a nursing home. Learn more about qualifying for Medi-Cal long-term care coverage.
Note: If you are hospitalized and think you may need to go into a nursing home, you may also ask the hospital’s Medi-Cal specialist for assistance.
Apply for Medi-Cal as soon as possible if you think you may not be able to afford your medical expenses or nursing-home placement. Processing your application can take several weeks because Medi-Cal must first determine eligibility by verifying your income and personal assets before coverage can be approved. You may request Medi-Cal to pay retroactively for the three months prior to the month in which you apply.