Houston Health Department
The Benefits Counseling program falls under the State Health Information and Assistance Program (SHIP). Benefits counseling, as well as all programs funded by the Area Agency on Aging is provided to persons 60 years and over residing in Harris County. However benefits counseling services, also known as HICAP (Health, Information, Counseling and Advocacy Program), are extended to all Medicare beneficiaries, including those with disabilities, regardless of age under special funds provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the federal agency that administers Medicare. The mission of the benefits counseling program is to provide accurate and objective counseling, assistance, and advocacy in relation to public benefits and entitlements.
Benefits counselors receive certification as HICAP counselors. They receive training in various services by representatives of the following agencies:
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Texas Legal Services Center
- Texas Department of Insurance
- Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services
- Texas Department of Human Services
- Social Security Administration
- Veterans Administration
as well as from local community service agencies.
The Older Americans Act authorizes Benefits Counseling services to assist older individuals, their family members and/or caregivers in understanding their rights applying for benefits and receiving appropriate referrals exercising choice benefiting from services and opportunities authorized by law, and maintaining the rights of older persons, especially those with reduced capacity, in solving disputes.
Counseling is provided in person, via telephone or written correspondence.
Beneficiaries can receive assistance involving the following issues:
- Activities of daily living
- Client representation –Appeals or hearings
- Consumer issues
- Fraud/scam/unfair sales
- Individual rights-abuse, dispute, employment, discrimination
- Institutional/facility care
- Long-Term Care insurance
- Managed Care Plans/Medicare+Choice/PFFS/HMOs
- Medigap/Supplemental insurance/Select
- Non-covered health-dental, hearing, assistive devices
- Other types of insurance-individual and group, Cobra
- Other retirement-teacher, railroad, public and private plans
- Social Security
- Surrogate decisions-Advanced directives, guardianship, wills, estates
- Veterans benefits
Counselors work with representatives from our partner agencies; Social Security Administration, Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Texas Department of Insurance, Legal Hotline for Older Texans, Medicaid, Medicare, Adult Protective Services and other Federal, State, Local and community agencies to resolve client issues. For legal services requiring an attorney, the agency contracts with Lone Star Legal Aid.
As mandated by the Older Americans Act, all services provided by the agency are free. However recipients are provided an opportunity to make voluntary contributions to the program.
For more information, call the Harris County Area Agency on Aging at 832-393-4301. If outside Harris County, please call toll free 1-800-213-8471.
Attention! Are you a Medicare beneficiary? Do you need help paying Medicare costs or medications? There are programs that can help you save money. Certified Benefits Counselors with the Area Agency on Aging of Harris County can help you identify and apply for assistance. If you are 60 years or older and reside in Harris County, the Area Agency on Aging of Harris County can assist you with other resources. For more detailed information contact us at: 832-393-4301 or 800-213-8471.