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October 15, 2020

Medicare Recipients Eligible for Free Benefits Counseling from Houston Health Department's Area Agency on Aging

Medicare beneficiaries reviewing their 2021 health and prescription drug plan options can get free help from benefits counselors with the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, a division of the Houston Health Department.

Medicare open enrollment begins October 15 and runs through December 7. It is a period for beneficiaries to compare all their Medicare options and make changes to their health or prescription drug coverage for the following year.

“There are a few new things this year. Many of the drug plans are offering a 30-day supply of insulin for $35 or less a month. If you have diabetes, take insulin, and enroll in one of these plans, you could save almost $500 a year in out-of-pocket costs,” said Rose Ortega, a benefits counselor with the agency.

Face-to-face meetings aren’t feasible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but clients can receive guidance from benefits counselors by scheduling appointments via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The appointments are available at 832-393-4301 or 800-213-8471.

Clients need the following items on-hand during appointments:

  • Medicare card (if changing current benefits)
  • A list of current medications
  • Award letter from Social Security or proof of income
  • Proof of current health insurance

Open enrollment for most beneficiaries may be the only time they can make changes to their Medicare coverage. They can:

  • Change their Medicare health or prescription drug coverage for 2021;
  • Decide which plan will meet their needs for 2021;
  • Check for changes in their plan such as costs;
  • Check drug coverage; and
  • Check if they will be able to see their preferred doctor or pharmacy.

Medicare beneficiaries or their legal representatives can obtain benefits counseling or more information by calling the Area Agency on Aging’s call center at 832-393-4301. Benefits counselors do not recommend or endorse any specific insurance product, insurance company or plan. They provide information and advice so beneficiaries can make their own decisions.

People can enroll in Medicare if they are 65 or older, under 65 and have a disability or have either end-stage renal disease or ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. This year, end-stage renal disease patients can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan.

New coverage begins January 1, 2021 Medicare plans can be previewed at