A split federal appeals court in Atlanta, Ga., ruled Friday that a key provision of last year's federal health-care overhaul is unconstitutional, siding with a group of 26 states that challenged the law.

The 11th Circuit's 2-1 ruling marks the Obama administration's biggest defeat to date in the multi-front legal battle over the health care law. The decision directly conflicts with a ruling issued in June by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati that upheld the law, wsj.com reported Friday.

The majority opinion stated that even during the Great Depression or World War II, "Congress never sought to require the purchase of wheat or war bonds, force a higher savings rate or greater consumption of American goods," latimes.com reported Friday. While Congress may regulate those who buy insurance, it may not regulate those who "have not entered the insurance market and have no intention of doing so."

Political/Public Policy Analysis: The Atlanta court's ruling now sets the stage for a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, with a ruling next year that could determine the fate of the 2010 U.S. health care reform law, and many also affect the 2012 elections.