EDITORIAL: Playing doctor

President Obama has no prescription for a healthier America

President Obama is shredding health insurance policies across the nation, throwing millions of people who trusted him off the policies they were told they could keep. What’s remarkable about this shell game is that the Obamacare changes have absolutely nothing to do with making Americans healthier. A vigorous population comes from better medicine, and better medicine is never wrought by the stroke of a president’s pen.

A single scientific breakthrough in the fight against hereditary disease would afford greater health benefits than the tens of thousands of pages of regulations that have grown like a metastasizing tumor from the president’s 2,700-page health care law. A promising technique dubbed “Crispr” may enable scientists to repair faulty human genetic code. The procedure, detailed last week in the British journal Independent, can be used to correct minute flaws in a person’s genetic code by precisely targeting a sequence of DNA, either by inserting a correction or excising a defect. Applications in the treatment of cancer are possible, as well as treatments in human embryos to remedy inherited genetic maladies, such as Down syndrome.

A second medical breakthrough offers great promise to fight cancers already at work in the body. “DCVax” is a cutting-edge technique for extracting immune-system cells from the body and triggering their cancer-fighting weapons in the laboratory, and then injecting them at the site of the tumor. Already primed to fight the specific cancer they encounter, the cells serve as personalized immune therapy against the cancer-causing foreign bodies. Northwest Biotherapies, based in Bethesda, reports that the technique doubles survival time of a certain type of advanced brain cancer.

Whether these treatments prove to be the magic cure we’ve all been seeking is not yet known, but just one breakthrough can make an enormous difference. The scourge of cancer cost Americans about $264 billion in 2010, according to the American Association for Cancer Research, and claimed 575,000 lives in 2012. The money wasted on building the unworkable Obamacare website, which has now topped $1 billion, could have been better spent on grants for trials of therapies such as Crispr and DCVax that hold such promise of rescuing Americans from debilitation and death.

The government prefers to misdirect resources into telling people what to do. The Food and Drug Administration is on a taxpayer-funded crusade against the supposedly harmful consequences from overconsumption of trans fats. The agency’s announcement on Thursday that it will ban the artificial cooking ingredient crosses the line between a legitimate advisory role and a nanny state diktat that tramples choice.

While repeatedly promising — falsely — that Americans could keep their doctors and health plans, Mr. Obama did not promise that Obamacare would make them healthier. That’s the promise only of medical breakthroughs produced by science free to follow the trail of discovery wherever it leads. Forcing millions into government-approved coverage is a bureaucratic exercise that ensures more Americans become dependent on the government in the pursuit of the good life. Mr. Obama, playing doctor, has no prescription for a healthier America.

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