There are several government programs and initiatives designed to provide financial assistance and to improve access to health care. These consist of social insurance and social welfare programs which are targeted principally at low income groups and the aged, but they also include those with particular special needs. In addition, there are initiatives which broadly encompass all employees with respect to the protection of health insurance coverage during specific events such as job changes.
The following are the major federal health care programs and statutes which are operated in conjunction with state governments:
Medicaid is a government health care program for certain low-income individuals and families who might not otherwise be able to afford the high cost of medical care. Medicaid provides coverage for a broad range of health care benefits such as doctors’ visits, hospital inpatient and outpatient treatment, x-rays and scans, laboratory services, prescription drugs, mental health services, family planning, and long-term care.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health insurance coverage to uninsured children in families with modest incomes who do not qualify for Medicaid. Pregnant women may also qualify for CHIP in many states.
Medicare is a government health insurance program for individuals aged 65 or older; individuals under age 65 with certain disabilities; and individuals of all ages with end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). Medicare has a number of optional components and for those wanting enhanced coverage, supplemental plans are also available.
COBRA allows an insured employee and/or his or her dependents to keep their employer-sponsored group health insurance coverage following a change in employment status (such as being terminated) or change in personal situation (such as divorce or legal separation).
HIPAA is not actually a health insurance program, but rather it is a federal law that exists to protect consumers. Most importantly, it provides consumers with improved access to health care when changing jobs and health plans, and ensures the confidentiality of personal health information.