A small success for the health reform law today: An appeals court has tossed out a challenge to the Affordable Care Act on lack of standing. While another appeals courts has ruled in the law’s favor on the merits, this is the first court this high up to dismiss a case altogether.

The challenge, brought by a doctor and one of his patients, contends that both individuals will be harmed by the individual mandate, as the doctor is no longer able to “seek payment for his professional services and the manner in which he may render treatment to his patients.”

The appeals court rejects that argument. From its decision this morning:

[The plaintiff] will continue to be free to choose “who and how” to pay for his health care needs, including by paying for those needs out of his own pocket. The individual mandate may, of course, impact [the plaintiff] depending on the precise “who and how” he chooses. Absent more specific allegations, however, we simply cannot conclude on the record before us there is a realistic danger or genuine probability that [he] will suffer a cognizable imminent injury resulting from the mandate.

This isn’t exactly a big win for the Obama administration — a lower court had already ruled against these plaintiffs and their case was never a centerpiece challenge, like those brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the 26-state suit in Florida. It does not say anything about the merits of the reform law nor its constitutional standing. But it leaves the administration without any strikes against it at the appellate level and a decent record in the district courts, with two rulings against and six in favor of the law’s constitutionality. If anything, it provides the administration with a nice rhetorical boost to have an appeals court judge declaring that, under the much-maligned individual mandate, Americans will be “free to choose” how to pay for health-care coverage.