WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Medicare prescription drug plan should be overhauled to make it simpler and less expensive, California Rep. Henry Waxman said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

Tens of thousands of elderly participants nationwide have been unable to receive medicines promised by the government since the drug benefit went into effect January 1.

On Tuesday, federal officials said they would reimburse states for stepping in to cover expenses for beneficiaries who have run into problems. (Full story)

Waxman, the senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said that in the plan's legislation, "corruption, incompetence, and an ideology that favors private profits over public programs all played a role."

He specifically targeted the 2003 Republican-controlled Congress.

"The program was turned over to hundreds of private insurers who can charge what they want, cover what drugs they want, and change what they cover at will," he said. "Instead of the certainty of Medicare coverage, seniors are now faced with a confusing array of choices, inaccurate information and sometimes even higher costs."

Waxman said he had "never seen a more dishonest legislative process than the one used to pass" the bill.

When overhauling the system, the government could use "the purchasing power of all of America's seniors to get low prices and better coverage," he said.

"America's seniors -- and America's taxpayers -- deserve honesty, simplicity, and a fair deal," Waxman said.