Seniors will see a modest increase in their Medicare prescription premiums next year but benefits will also improve, federal health officials said Wednesday.

The average monthly premium charged by Medicare drug plans for standard coverage will rise to an estimated $30 in 2011, an increase of $1 over 2010, or about 3 percent, said Medicare administrator Don Berwick.

But since Medicare drug plans vary widely in coverage and costs, consumer advocates cautioned that seniors need to check their particular plan to avoid unpleasant surprises that may not be revealed in a such a broad estimate of average premiums.

Nonetheless, seniors with high drug costs can look forward to a noticeable improvement next year.

That's because the new health care law will begin to close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole. Medicare recipients in the gap will get a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs, and 7 percent off on generics. The discounts will gradually increase until the gap finally closes in 2020.

To read more, click on Medicare Drug Plans