A US federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, has overturned a lower court's ruling that found unconstitutional a key provision of the health care law championed by President Barack Obama.
The state of Virginia had earlier asserted in a lawsuit that the health care law was unconstitutional because it would require people to buy a commercial product - health insurance. A federal district court agreed with Virginia.
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, however, ruled on Thursday that Virginia lacked standing to challenge the law.
Federal district judges had issued conflicting rulings on the whether key provisions of the health care law were constitutional, prompting the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to weigh in.
Various cases have challenged the health care law's constitutionality, raising questions that the U.S. Supreme Court will almost certainly decide.
The legislation is likely to become a major 2012 campaign issue.
The Richmond-based court is the second such federal court to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, particularly the "individual mandate" provision requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a financial penalty.
Another appeals court, in Atlanta, ruled against the administration last month, finding the individual mandate section of the bill exceeds congressional power and is unconstitutional.
The health care reform bill was passed by the last Congress in a series of virtually party-line votes. Obama signed the act into law in March 2010. The law is widely considered to be the signature legislative accomplishment of the president's first two years in office.
Among other things, the measure was designed to help millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans receive adequate and affordable health care through a series of government-imposed mandates and subsidies.
The federal government said in court briefs that 45 million Americans last year were without health insurance, roughly 15 per cent of the country's population.
Critics have equated the measure to socialized medicine, fearing that a bloated government bureaucracy will result in higher taxes and diminished health care services.