News Release

7/25/00

HMO Meetings to Inform Seniors of Health Care Options

Houston (July 25, 2000) The Houston/Harris County Area Agency on Aging in conjunction with the Houston/Galveston Area Agency on Aging and the Texas Department of Insurance will sponsor six Medicare HMO Withdrawal Meetings to counsel beneficiaries on making a smooth transition to the remaining health care options for 2001.

Seven of the eight HMOs intend to withdraw from the local market by January 1, resulting in a flood of calls to the Houston/Harris County Area Agency on Aging from anxious seniors worried about their health care.

Meeting locations and times on August 8 are:

Conroe Friendship Center, 2015 N. Frazier, in Conroe at 8:30 a.m.;

South County Friendship Center, 2235 Lake Robbins Road, in The Woodlands at 10:30 a.m.;

Bayland Community Center, 6400 Bissonnet, in Houston at 1 p.m. and,

West Gray Multi-Service Center, 1475 West Gray, in Houston at 3:30 p.m.

Meetings on August 9 are set at the Pasadena Senior Program, 720 Fairmont Parkway, in Pasadena at 9 a.m. and the J.W. Peavy Senior Center, 3814 Market Street in Houston at 3 p.m.

Benefits counselors with the Houston/Harris County Area Agency on Aging advise Medicare beneficiaries not to panic since they will still have care options.

"It is critical that seniors not make hasty, uninformed decisions," said Charlene James, director of the Houston/Harris County Area Agency on Aging. "Medicare beneficiaries losing their HMO coverage have guaranteed rights, but they must act very carefully to protect these rights. Attending these meetings or contacting a benefits counselor is the first step."

Any changes made by beneficiaries to their coverage plans prior to October 2 could limit their care options. The meetings will inform beneficiaries how they can protect their rights.

Seniors and people with disabilities living in Harris County may make meeting reservations or obtain additional information by contacting the Houston/Harris County Area Agency on Agings Benefits Counseling Program at 713-794-9001 or 1-800-213-8471.

Seniors living in the counties of Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton may call the Houston/Galveston Area Agency on Aging Benefits Counseling Program at 713-627-3200 or 1-800-437-7396.

Those unable to attend one of the meetings may telephone their local Area Agency on Aging weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to receive one-on-one counsel about their Medicare benefits.

Currently, Secure Horizons by PacifiCare is the only Medicare HMO available in Harris County. HMOs terminating services in the area are Cigna HealthCare For Seniors, Humana Gold Plus Plan, Memorial-Sisters of Charity Choice 65, MethodistCare 65 Plus, NYLCare 65 Medicare Plan, Prudential HealthCare SeniorCare and Texas Health Choice-Golden Choice.