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Benefits provided under the Medicaid program vary widely from state to state. Twenty-six categories of services are listed under the Medicaid states as services states may cover, in addition to a provision allowing coverage of “any other medical care, and any other type of remedial care, specified by the Secretary.”

As of 2002, states must provide Medicaid recipients who are required by federal law to be covered with inpatient hospital services; outpatient hospital services and rural health clinic services; early and periodic screening; other laboratory and X-ray services; nursing facility services; early and periodic screening, diagnostic and treatment services for children; family planning services and supplies, physician services; and nurse-midwife and other certified nurse practitioners services.

Medicaid also covers long-term care. States have considerable flexibility in their long-term care programs. Although states must cover home health services under Medicaid, they have the option of providing personal care services and also may design home and community-based care programs. Medicaid funds half of all nursing home care in this country. Medicaid also pays for much of the care provided by intermediate care facilities for the mentally disabled.

Nursing homes present a special problem for Medicaid, in that many elderly are too well-off to qualify for Medicaid when they go into the nursing home but become impoverished paying for nursing home expenses and other medical expenses. Thirty-six states allow such people to “spend down” their assets until they reach Medicaid asset eligibility levels. At that point, Medicaid assumes the cost of nursing home and medical care. Not all states allow this, only those that cover the medically needy.

Some states cover optional services, such as podiatry, dental care, eyeglasses, or dentures, under Medicaid. These optional services are usually the first to go if there are cutbacks in the program.

Inside Benefits