Medicare Prescription Plan

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Once a week a group of seniors in downtown Washington, DC gets together for a full hour of strenuous exercise, but these days what they're getting more exercised about is the new Medicare Plan D, the first federal prescription drug plan for seniors.

Medicare recipients can sign up for the new drug benefit, but there doesn't seem to be a stampede to the phones. A recent survey found that only 20 percent of the nation's elderly plan to enroll, while 43 percent are undecided and 61 percent are just plain confused.

Even the lawyer said, ”I don't understand it.”

The AARP's Cheryl Matheis says help understanding the plan is readily available online, on the phone and through classes.

Cheryl says, “The only people who really seriously shouldn't be signing up for this are people who already have prescription drug coverage and get a letter saying it is as good or better than Medicare, but for just about everybody else, this is the way to go.”

Here's what to keep in mind: enrollment is voluntary and the deadline for signing up is six months from now, May 15. Insurance companies overseen by Medicare offer different kinds of plans, so it's critical to make sure your drugs are listed, that your pharmacy participates or you can get mail delivery of your drugs, and that you weigh premiums, deductibles and what portion of your prescription you pay.

The standard benefit averages $32 a month, plus a yearly deductible of $250.

There are a lot of good plans out there, so people really need to be focused on what is important to them, and pick a plan that has those things. It’s all good advice, but be prepared. Some states have dozens of plans.