Here's an unusual gift idea for Christmas

We have a suggestion for an unusual Christmas present for your parents or grandparents: Help them sign up for their new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

It may not be the most exciting thing they'll find under the tree this year, but it might bring them some peace of mind and save them money - and they're going to need to go through the process with your help or without it.

So while families get together for the holidays, it might be a good time for somebody to sit down with the patriarchs and matriarchs and help them figure out how to make their way through the variety of choices available.

Here's one way: Go to right now and navigate the site so you're familiar with it.

We'll even give you a cheat, courtesy of Stephen Deering, regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. When it asks for a Medicare claim number, enter 111-11-1111 A. Then you can get into the questionnaire and test it for yourself before sitting down with Grandma or Grandpa.

We realize we're making a big assumption here - that you're more computer savvy than the older generation. If not, you also have the option of sitting down with them while they call 1-800-MEDICARE and go through the process on the phone.

Or you can go with them to one of the many sessions at senior centers hosted by the Nevada Division for Aging Services.

While the prescription plans have been described in the media as a confusing maze of choices, the folks administering the program say most people will be able to narrow their options rather quickly to a few plans.

The hardest part may well be simply sitting down at the computer or telephone and getting started so they can make a choice by Dec. 31 (or decide that their existing coverage is better than what's being offered). Maybe they don't need your help. But it's a good time to ask.


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