WASHINGTON (AP) _ About 230,000 Medicare recipients are receiving checks that erroneously reimburse them for monthly premiums they have paid for prescription drug coverage.

The checks, which are sure to leave many beneficiaries confused, average about $215. They are accompanied by a letter that tells them the Social Security Administration will no longer deduct the premiums from their Social Security check.

Medicare officials say they caught the glitch just as the checks were sent out. A second letter began going out Tuesday instructing the elderly and disabled not to cash the checks and assuring them that their prescription drug coverage will continue.

``It's very important for people to know their coverage is continuing. There's no disruption at all,'' said Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.