With less than three weeks left until Election Day, political candidates throughout the country are working tirelessly on both sides of the aisle to get their messages to potential voters.

One of the biggest issues on the horizon is health care. While presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have detailed their plans for sweeping health care reform, Oklahoma candidates for Congress have ideas of their own.

All three Oklahoma candidates running for U.S. Senate and all three running for U.S. House of Representatives (District 4) recognize the need for health care reform. Here’s what they have in mind:

U.S. House of Representatives, District 4 candidates

Tom Cole, Republican incumbent:

“Our nation’s health care system certainly needs a check up,” said Cole.

“There are a number of practical, fiscally-responsible improvements to health care that need to be instituted. And we need market-based reforms to ensure that patients do not receive ‘bargain-bin’ care.”

Cole said he would oppose any plan that would allow unsafe or adulterated prescription drugs to be imported from foreign countries.

Cole would also oppose a universal health care plan, as he feels such a move would dilute the quality of service and increase the amount of time between diagnosis and treatment.

“I favor making all health insurance tax deductible,” said Cole. “In addition, I believe we need national medical liability reform to lower health insurance premiums and costs and associated health care plans to allow small businesses to band together to purchase cheaper coverage for their employees.”

Blake Cummings, Democrat challenger:

“Every year I get two letters from my health insurance company,” said Cummings. “One is telling me that my rates are going up and the other is telling me that my benefits are down. They don’t say it that way. They say, ‘We’ve changed the language in this section to be the following.’ Invariably, it’s less coverage.”

Cummings said that he would propose or support a single-payer type health care program for all children from birth to the age of 18.

“At the same time, I’d like to see Medicare shored up, so to speak,” said Cummings.

“I see the ads for AARP about extra insurance that is a supplement to Medicare. Medicare shouldn’t need a supplement. When you reach retirement age or when you become disabled, we should have a program in place that’s a single payer, so that there is no supplement needed.”

As for men and women in between: “Well, these are the people who are out working. They can have jobs where they can have health insurance.”

David E. Joyce, Independent challenger:

“I believe that quality health care needs to be available to all people, and of the same quality,” said Joyce. “I’ve lived on both sides of the street on this issue; the side where I couldn’t afford it and couldn’t get the best treatment ... I’ve also been on the other side, where I could go to the best hospitals around.”

For Joyce, the key to reforming health care (and everything else) is in his comprehensive tax plan. Joyce is in favor of a “flat tax,” where all current taxation would be replaced by a single 2.05 percent flat income tax applied to all.

“This would help people afford better health care because the tax plan would put an average of 11 to 13.6 percent of people’s wages, of the working class wages, back into their pockets at the times they need them,” Joyce said. “If you can get 11 to 13 percent back into people’s pockets, they’re going to be able to afford better health care.”

Oklahoma U.S. Senate candidates

Andrew Rice, Democrat challenger:

“One of the problems with health care is that people who are sick in this country have a hard time getting health insurance,” Rice said. “By knocking people off their coverage when they have illnesses or pre-existing conditions, then health insurance companies are actually driving up costs for consumers and health care providers.”

Rice has created a plan that would be what he called a “public/private plan.” People would still buy insurance premiums, but the cost of those premiums would be shared among the federal government, the state, employers and employees.

Like auto insurance for drivers, Rice said that his public/private plan would be mandatory for all American citizens. At the same time, more regulations would be enforced on insurance providers, ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions and illnesses can still find coverage. People would also be able to take their insurance plans with them from one job to another.

“I don’t think a single-payer universal system is doable overnight,” said Rice. “It’s not that I’m against it, I just don’t think it’s feasible within the next couple of years.”

The key to his proposed health care plan is to find ways to share costs on premiums, Rice said. This will eventually drive down health care costs, as healthier people are helping to cover the costs of those who are ill.

Stephen P. Wallace, Independent challenger:

“Health care reform will only be accomplished by capping damages to law firms,” said Wallace, “and that all insurance cos. must use inside counsel to save billions.”

Wallace said that he does not believe in Universal health care. “Medicine must remain personal and trust motivated,” he said.

When asked what legislation Wallace would introduce/support regarding health care reform if elected into office, he replied by saying: “Take the Trial lawyers out of the formula and all rates will fall...”

James Inhofe, Republican incumbent:

“America’s health care system desperately needs attention,” said Inhofe. “Changes must be made to restore individuals as the fundamental consumers in our health care system. An individual’s right as a consumer must be the priority in any legislation.”

Inhofe said that he opposes universal, government-controlled health care plans. “Government financing means government control, and government control means less personal freedom,” he said.

“In order to lower the cost of health care and make it more accessible, we need to increase competition and choice, pass medical malpractice reform, help small businesses provide insurance to their employees, and eliminate bureaucratic red tape,” said Inhofe.

“We must get rid of unnecessary federal mandates and lower costs through deregulation. Over 47 million Americans are without health insurance. To help address this, I have cosponsored the Health Care Choice Act in the last two congresses. Instead of creating a massive new government bureaucracy, this bill will help put individuals back in control of their health care needs by removing interstate trade barriers to health insurance. It also reduces costs by avoiding red tape and expensive state mandates and lets insurers licensed in one state sell to individuals in the other 49.”