Public Health Insurance Options

Public health insurance options are much-needed safety nets for many people. According to PBS, there were 44 million people without health insurance in 2009. Public health insurance programs are partnerships between the federal government and the states. Although the government regulates and partially funds these programs, each state runs its own programs and has its own eligibility requirements and benefit limits.

Medicare

The Medicare program is available to people 65 and older, people under 65 with permanent and debilitating disabilities and anyone who requires dialysis or a kidney transplant. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare is broken up into three parts. Part A is hospital insurance which covers inpatient care and skilled nursing facilities as well as some home nurse care and hospice expenses although these have different eligibility requirements. Part B is medical insurance which requires people to pay a premium and co-payments. It covers doctor's visits, physical therapy and medical supplies. Medicare Part B also covers home health care in some instances. The final part to Medicare is the prescription drug coverage. Almost all participants pay a monthly premium and are required to pick a provider and a plan for prescription coverage to begin.

Medicaid

Medicaid helps low-income families and individuals by offering low-cost health insurance. Medicaid's availability varies from state to state but, generally, children, pregnant women and those with disabilities are eligible. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notes that you must meet other eligibility requirements besides low-income and that many poor people are not able to participate in the program. People who are disabled and are able to work can take part in the Medicaid Buy-In, also known as the Ticket to Work program. Medicaid insurance often requires monthly premiums and co-payments at the time of service. In addition to health insurance, the program will pay for qualified medical expenses incurred up to three months before application.

Children's Health Insurance Program

The Children's Health Insurance Program, more commonly know as CHIP, is a re-authorization and extension of the previous State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). CHIP provides low-cost health and dental insurance for children and pregnant women in families that cannot afford private insurance but don't qualify for Medicaid. Participants choose the insurance provider as well as the plan and may have to pay a monthly premium and co-payments.

State Public Health Programs

Many states have their own public health insurance programs. These may include high-risk insurance pools for people who have been turned down for traditional coverage because of pre-existing conditions or ineligible health problems. Some states fund and run their own public health insurance programs such as New York state's Family Health Plus. These programs may be available to low-income families and individuals but eligibility will vary.