Although you may sometimes hear Social Security (SS) and Medicare mentioned alongside one another, they’re two very different programs. They were both designed to help support Americans in need of financial assistance, but the ways in which they do that are very specific.

Think of Social Security and Medicare as two separate jars that you put a portion of your taxes into. Then, once you become eligible for one or both programs, you can receive the benefits. And because each program offers unique benefits, it’s important to know the differences between the two.

What Social Security and Medicare have in common

Both Medicare and Social Security are government-run programs that aim to support retirees and disabled Americans. How they’re funded, the benefits they provide and who they help can sometimes look similar, which is why they’re often confused. Here’s what they have in common.

Individually funded by payroll taxes

Both Medicare and Social Security are funded by payroll taxes. Most Americans pay into these programs throughout their careers. A certain percentage is taxed on earnings and both workers and employers contribute. Medicare itself is also funded by general revenue and premium costs.

Provide benefits to people who are eligible

Social Security and Medicare provide a host of financial benefits to those who qualify, however, eligibility varies. You can also have Social Security and Medicare at the same time – you don’t have to choose. The amount you’ll pay into or receive from these programs is affected by how long you spent contributing to each through payroll taxes.

Help people with certain disabilities

Often, people associate Medicare and Social Security with retirement only. But both of these programs are also available for people with qualifying disabilities – regardless of age. To qualify for Medicare as a disabled American, you must have received Social Security Disability benefits for at least 24 months or have end-stage renal disease (ESRD). To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you need to have worked jobs covered by Social Security during your career and also have a diagnosed condition that meets Social Security’s definition of a disability.

How Social Security and Medicare are different

With so much in common, what makes Social Security and Medicare different? To answer that question, it’s vital to understand how each program is serving its beneficiaries.

Social Security is a government-run income benefit program. It serves retirees who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years, widows, widowers and other family members with certain circumstances and those with disabilities. Each month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) distributes money to people who are eligible for these benefits, and you can spend this money on whatever you need.

Medicare, which is also a government-run program, offers health insurance coverage to those who are over 65 years old and who have paid into Social Security for 10 years – as well as those with certain disabilities or with end-stage renal disease. Once eligible, people enroll in Medicare and pay the government a set amount each month for their Medicare coverage.

People who have worked have already paid for their Part A coverage through Social Security tax, so they won’t have to pay a monthly Part A premium. For those who haven’t paid this tax, they’ll typically get a monthly bill for their Part A coverage in the mail. For everyone on Medicare, the cost of Part B coverage (called the Part B premium) will likely be taken out of their Social Security check.

And finally, here’s how the two overlap

Although they’re different programs, Medicare and Social Security work together to serve beneficiaries. In fact, the Social Security Administration determines who’s eligible for Medicare and handles some of Medicare’s administrative duties, like enrollment and collecting premiums. That’s why people enroll in Medicare by contacting the SSA.