Got questions about Medicare prescription card choices? Can't get through on 800-MEDICARE? Other state and local agencies are gearing up to help. (State offices will give you the number for a local counseling center.)

As of last week, counseling appointments at these agencies were available with little or no wait. However, some agencies require consumers to first provide prescription information (either by phone or on a form that must be completed and mailed back) before making an appointment. Seniors for whom that's a problem -- those, for example, who can't read the small print on their prescription bottles -- should let advisers know by phone.

Also worth noting: Counselors will be using the Web site as their primary information source. Given some of the glitches discovered on the site, it may make sense to wait a few weeks to allow for cleanup before making an appointment.

* In the District: Health Insurance Counseling Project, 202-739-0668, TTY: 202-973-1079; provided through the George Washington University Law School.

* In Maryland: Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program, 410-767-1100 or 800-AGE-DIAL (800-243-3425), TTY: 410-767-1083.

* In Virginia: Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Project, 804-662-9333 or 800-552-3402, TTY: 804-662-9333 or 800-552-3402.

-- Lisa Barrett Mann