President Obama's foes may be gleeful this afternoon, now that federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson has ruled that the federal government cannot require individual Americans to purchase health insurance policies from private insurance companies.
In the short run, the White House has apparently lost a skirmish. In the long run, it's conservatives who may have suffered the more grievous wound. Hudson's ruling, if upheld by the Supreme Court, may pave the way for an even more "socialistic" kind of healthcare system.
Say what you want about Obamacare, this much is undeniable: the Democrats chose to work with existing stake holders - like doctors and industry and drug firms and insurance companies - to improve the current healthcare system, based as it is on private insurance.
But if the conservative majority on the Supreme Court sides with Hudson, that may change. The tens of millions of sick Americans without insurance will not be turned away at hospital doors, and kicked out to the gutter to die. They will get treated, in very expensive circumstances, and the costs of their treatment will be passed along to you and me. Our insurance premiums will climb, as we pay for the free riders, and in time more and more of us will be joining the ranks of the uninsured, and/or paying higher taxes to the state and federal governments to cover soaring healthcare costs.
At some point, the idea of a public option - opening government health programs like Medicaid, Medicare or the Veteran's Administration to all Americans - will gain political traction. After all, reformers will argue, we tried to be reasonable and work within the system, but judges like Henry Hudson would not let us.