The Obama administration prevailed Wednesday in the first appellate review of the 2010 health-care law as a three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was constitutional for Congress to require that Americans buy health insurance.

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The Obama administration prevailed Wednesday in the first appellate review of the 2010 health-care law as a three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was constitutional for Congress to require that Americans buy health insurance.

The ruling by the court in Cincinnati is the first of three to be delivered by separate courts of appeal that heard arguments in the health-care litigation in May and June. Opinions are expected soon from panels in the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., and the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

Lawyers on both sides of the case expect the Supreme Court to take one or more of the cases. In the 2-1 ruling, a judge appointed by a Republican president joined one named by a Democrat to write the majority opinion.

As they look ahead to the Supreme Court, the law’s defenders can take encouragement from the concurring opinion written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, a Republican. Sutton is typically considered conservative on constitutional reach.

After acknowledging the difficulty of pinpointing the limits on Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce, Sutton wrote: “In my opinion, the government has the better of the arguments.” He added, “Not every intrusive law is an unconstitutionally intrusive law.”

Joining Sutton was Judge Boyce Martin Jr., an appointee of President Carter, a Democrat. Dissenting on the central issues was Judge James Graham, a District Court judge appointed by President Reagan who is on temporary assignment to the 6th Circuit.

The appeal, which was heard June 1, came in a challenge filed by the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative public-interest firm in Ann Arbor, Mich. In its ruling, the panel upheld Judge George Steeh of U.S. District Court in Detroit, who concluded that choosing not to buy health insurance was a consequential commercial decision that could be regulated by Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay an income-tax penalty. The administration argues that without the insurance mandate, it is not reasonable to require insurers to cover all applicants regardless of their health status.

The 6th Circuit majority held that the mandate was “constitutional under the Commerce Clause” for two reasons. “First, the provision regulates economic activity that Congress had a rational basis to believe has substantial effects on interstate commerce,” Martin wrote. “In addition, Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in health care and health insurance.”

Graham countered in his dissent that if the mandate were allowed, “it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress’ Commerce Clause authority would be.”

But the majority agreed with Neal Katyal, acting U.S. solicitor general, who said individual choices to not buy insurance, when taken in aggregate, have clear commercial effects because they shift the cost of caring for the uninsured to other payers.