It's shopping time for the 2.5 million Texans who have Medicare coverage.
Open enrollment for the program starts today and runs through December 7th. It's the one time of year beneficiaries can review their plan, and switch coverage if needed.
State Director of AARP Texas Tina Tran noted that because health insurance plans change every year, what works now may not be the best option for 2020. So she said she encourages folks to do some homework.
"People should be making sure that they balance coverage with cost," Tran said. "Often folks who are on limited incomes want to go for the lowest cost, but we want to make sure that they are really looking at their coverage as well so there is a balance there."
Factors to consider when reviewing plan options include current medical conditions, prescription medications and whether your current health care providers are in-network.
Medicare is offering a new plan finder tool online at medicare.org to help consumers compare coverage options. And Texans can get free assistance from certified benefits counselors available at Area Agencies on Aging, who can offer unbiased information about plan options. More information is available by calling 800-252-9240.
Alice Novaro, lead benefits advisor for Capital Area Agency on Aging, said everyone enrolled in Medicare - including those under age 65 with special circumstances - can get assistance from a benefits counselor. She said she's noticed some plan premiums are increasing, which could be a concern for those on a fixed income.
"Although you may have to take a plan that might be less expensive per month, its possible that plan might end up being a better fit," Novaro said, "because it may cover the prescriptions that you need, but also give you benefits you may not have considered wanting, such as Silver Sneakers. That seems to be a really popular benefit."
Medicare has been around for more than 50 years, and Tran said AARP Texas will continue its work to make sure Medicare is strong for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
"It's really in our lifeblood to make sure that people have access to affordable health care - particularly in their older years when their income is limited. It's a part of our legacy to fight for Medicare, making sure it's there for people for decades to come."
According to AARP, before Medicare, nearly half of Americans age 65-plus had no insurance to cover hospitalization, and even fewer had plans that covered doctor visits.