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HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department and the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, a division of the department, will offer free counseling to Medicare beneficiaries reviewing their 2022 health and prescription drug plans during open enrollment, October 15 to December 7.

Open enrollment 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 including in-home COVID-19 vaccinations and testing,” said Rose Ortega, a benefits counselor with the agency.  “To qualify for in-home services, you people must be 60 years of age or older, a veteran, homebound or have a disability.  People who are not homebound can still call us to discuss their options for scheduling an appointment for a vaccination at one of the Houston Health Department locations.”

Counselors are offering face-to-face meetings this year, but If clients are unable to meet in person, they can still receive guidance by scheduling virtual appointments via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and by telephone.  Appointments are encouraged and 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, and
-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 2022;
-decide which plan will meet their needs for 2022;
-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, 2022.  Beneficiaries can preview Medicare plans at Medicare.gov.