New Medicare Rx Plan Checklist

The new Medicare prescription drug plan starts on New Year's Day — and more than 40 million seniors are eligible to sign up for it.

But there's so much confusion over how to sign up and how to choose a coverage plan that's right for you. CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews tries to walk you through it.

It's the weekly concert at the Salem, Va., senior center. But as lively as they are, we couldn't find one who's signed up for the Medicare drug benefit.

Have they avoided this because it's hard?

"Yeah, to be honest, I didn't understand it and didn't know what to do," says retiree Fred Huber.

No question, the benefit is complex, but signing up for the benefit is fairly easy. So, grab a pencil because we've got a list of steps for how to do this.

  • Step one and most important: Sit down and make a list of the drugs you take, the dosages of each drug and the pharmacies you use. Drugs. Dosages. Pharmacies.
  • Step two: contact Medicare. Use the Web at or call 1 800-MEDICARE.

    Many seniors have asked what good is that Web site if you don't use the Internet.

    Dr. Mark McClellan, the head of Medicare who's traveling by bus these days to explain the benefit, says calling 1 800-MEDICARE is all you need.

    "And we will walk you through the same information you can get on the computer," McClellan says.

  • Step three: When you call 1 800-MEDICARE, read to the counselor your list of drugs and the counselor takes it from there.

    "We can go ahead and enter that information and help them compare, you know, three plans," says Medicare counselor Delana Hopkins.

    Based on your list, Medicare will refer you to three insurance plans in your state that cover all of your drugs and they will quote you the prices.

  • Step four: You have a choice. You can stop and enroll immediately though Medicare or write down the plans' phone numbers and keep shopping.

    If you call the individual companies – such as the AARP/United plan – manager Doug Norris says compare prices.

    "Most of the comparisons is going to be around the cost of the plan, what the deductibles are, what the individual drug costs are," says Norris of United Health Group.

    But the first steps will get you moving – and that's make a list of your drugs, the doses, and your pharmacy and then call Medicare.

    That's how you pick a benefit worth thousands over the rest of your life.

    Click here for a more detailed walk-thru of the process and to get Internet links that provide more help.

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      David Hancock is a home page editor for