After six Republican presidential debates, there is no debate about one thing — everyone in the race abhors "ObamaCare," otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
It's a disaster, they agree, which should surprise no one. The plan passed the U.S. Congress without a single Republican vote.
Having established that they oppose it, the discussion should now shift to what the candidates would do differently to contain the nation's mounting health-care affordability crisis.
Making ObamaCare go away will still leave the underlying problem — health care is way too costly in the U.S.
There was fresh, startling evidence of that Tuesday. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the average family health-care premium paid by employers reached $15,073 in 2011, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.
That cost, according to the report, has doubled since 2001, far outpacing gains in wages or profits.
The Kaiser Foundation estimates that only 1 to 2 percent of the increase can be attributed to provisions of the new health-care law already in effect.
Experts say the increase would have been even higher if not for the recession. Evidence shows that families under financial strain are putting off doctor visits and medical procedures because of escalating co-payments and deductibles.
Meanwhile, a host of evidence shows that Americans pay far more for drugs and medical care than those in other Western nations.
The graphs tell a frightening tale. In the 1970s, the U.S. was roughly equal to other nations in per-capita health-care spending — about $356 per year.
Today, we far exceed them all: $7,538 in 2010, compared to the next-highest country, Norway, at $5,003. Even Canada and England, with their much-criticized single-payer systems, spend far less than the U.S.: $4,079 and $3,129 respectively.
That might be OK if the U.S. had the economic output to support that rate of spending, but we do not.
The U.S. now spends more than 17 percent of gross domestic product on health care. The next-highest rate is France, at 11.2 percent. The average industrialized Western country spends about 9.9 percent.
The problems for the U.S. are stark and immediate. Employers who do offer health care — and the number is steadily dwindling — are forced to push more and more of the cost back to employees.
After a severe recession and negative income growth for many Americans during the past decade, it has become that much harder for U.S. workers to pay medical bills, even if they do have insurance.
Meanwhile, government programs for the elderly and poor, Medicare and Medicaid, are already unsustainable. With millions of aging baby boomers scheduled to join the program, and millions more forced to rely on the government for health care as a result of the recession, the problem quickly worsens going forward.
To Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman Jr., Rick Santorum and Rick Perry:
Bashing Obama, and each other, will only take you so far. Give us a better plan for making our health-care system more efficient, effective and affordable.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.