You can't take it with you: If you're relocating, you'll need to reapply for Medicaid in the state where you're planning to reside.

Can I use my Medicaid coverage in any state?

Q. Can I use my Medicaid coverage in any state?

A: No. Because each state has its own Medicaid eligibility requirements, you can’t just transfer coverage from one state to another, nor can you use your coverage when you’re temporarily visiting another state.

Medicaid offers health coverage to millions of Americans, and in many states, that coverage matches or even surpasses that of private health insurance. Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal government and state governments, but each state has the option to set its own rules and requirements for eligibility. As such, transferring your Medicaid coverage from one state to another isn’t always easy.

Transferring Medicaid benefits to another state

Technically, there’s no formal program or option that allows you to transfer your Medicaid coverage from one state to another. Therefore, if you’re relocating, you’ll need to reapply for Medicaid in the state you’re planning to reside in.

The good news is that you’re allowed to apply for Medicaid in your new state immediately after relocating, and doing so can help you avoid a lapse in benefits. It generally takes anywhere from 15 to 90 days to receive a letter of approval once you apply for Medicaid, and you can usually submit your application online.

One thing you should know about Medicaid is that you can’t be covered by it in two different states at the same time. Therefore, to transfer your coverage – so to speak – you’ll need to first terminate your original Medicaid coverage and then apply in your new state once you’ve relocated.

Most states offer retroactive Medicaid coverage, which allows you to receive coverage for up to three months prior to the date of your application’s approval. However, you may be forced to pay for healthcare services out of pocket until that retroactive coverage kicks in and renders you eligible for reimbursement. To this end, make sure to retain copies of all medical receipts for services received during your coverage gap.

Eligibility requirements

The challenge of applying for Medicaid in a new state is that each state has its own requirements for eligibility, so just because you’re entitled to coverage in one state doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed in another. Medicaid eligibility hinges on three factors:

  • Income level
  • Level of assets
  • Level of care requirements

The thresholds for income level and asset level eligibility are fairly similar across states. Level of care requirements, on the other hand, are more open to interpretation, so while you may qualify for Medicaid based on medical need in one state, that won’t necessarily hold true in another. Be sure to research the rules of the state to which you’re seeking relocation to ensure that your coverage will be able to continue.

Keep in mind that if you’re eligible for Supplemental Security Income, you’ll often automatically qualify for Medicaid – but some states have stricter criteria, so don’t assume that you’re eligible just because you get SSI.

Traveling to another state

If you’re traveling to another state and fall ill, you may be out of luck – Medicaid won’t cover the cost of services in a state that isn’t your home state. Generally, you can only use your Medicaid coverage out-of-state if you encounter a true life-threatening emergency that requires immediate care (meaning, there isn’t time to transport you back to your home state for care).

That said, sometimes, pre-approved treatment at an out-of-state facility is covered by Medicaid, but only when proper authorization is obtained. Similarly, Medicaid coverage may kick in if you receive treatment in an out-of-state facility that borders yours, and in which residents of your state routinely seek care. Again, you must make sure Medicaid will cover such care before pursuing it, or you risk getting stuck with the associated bills.


Maurie Backman has been writing professionally for well over a decade, and her coverage area runs the gamut from healthcare to personal finance to career advice. Much of her writing these days revolves around retirement and its various components and challenges, including healthcare, Medicare, Social Security, and money management. 

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Christy Simmons
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Christy Simmons

Moved from California to Colorado need to reapply for Medicaid ASAP to keep my Perscriptions for behavioral health

jayson
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jayson

Kind of a crock that they don’t make an exception when travelling to another state. Seriously…if you break a leg in California while visiting relatives, you have to fly all the way back for your medical care or have it done in California and pay for it yourself? Shows you why government shouldn’t be in charge of anything.

Justin
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Justin

No, what that shows is that the federal government should pass laws allowing Medicaid to be offered nationally rather than decided by a state-wide legislative body…

Carol Tagliaferro
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Carol Tagliaferro

Medicaid recipients in NJ should be allowed to go to hospitals in the NY and Philadelphia metro area. They are called “border providers” and several other states allow their Medicaid recipients to do just that. I know first hand that even when NJ approves an out-of-state emergency the doctors/hospital do not have to accept the payment because they are not under any financial obligation to do so. A family can go bankrupt very easily under these circumstances. NJ doesn’t want out-of-state providers because of the red tape involved with billing, it has nothing to do with additional funding. Once an… Read more »

Rosie
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Rosie

Do you know if this “border provider” works the same with nursing home? Like if a patient is in a nursing home in NJ with their Medicaid will they be willing to pay for NY nursing home if the patient wants to transfer? or it doesn’t apply?

Katie Brown
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Katie Brown

Let’s say you need a limb preserving surgery aka if you don’t get this surgery, you most likely will lose lower limb use and eventually bladder/bowl function. The surgery will allow you to walk without mobility aids. You have a rare disease, and there is a specialist in Rhode Island willing to treat, but you live in CA. No known surgeons will treat or are knowledgable of rare disease. I realize exceptions are probably rare, but have you ever heard of one in a situation like this? Also, if RI and CA both carry a medicaid community option from UHC..would… Read more »

Louise Norris
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Hi Katie, I reached out to UHC Community Plan to see what information they could provide. They said situations like this do happen, and prior authorization for an out-of-state specialist is possible if there are no in-state specialists who can treat the issue. They said that you can reach out to Medi-Cal directly (800-430-4263) to start the process of changing your managed care plan to UHC (I’m assuming the managed care plan you have now doesn’t have providers in Rhode Island?). If and when you do that, your primary care provider could initiate the process of seeking an exception to… Read more »