Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Thursday that the state of Virginia expected a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court to toss out the state’s challenge on the federal health care law.

“Honestly we were expecting that we’d probably lose given the panel of judges. We thought it was more likely than not,’’ McDonnell said in an interview. “It’s got a long way to go. I’ve said for a year that the United States Supreme Court is going to make the final decision on that and maybe ultimately the United States Congress depending on what happens in the election.”

McDonnell said the loss means Virginia is now allowed to choose where to file the appeal.

“You always hate to lose, but it does give us the ability to decide where to appeal and hopefully that will be an advantage,’’ he said.

McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), who filed the suit on behalf of the state, had advocated for an expedited review of the case..

“I didn’t think there was any need to go to the Fourth Circuit,’’ he said. ”The Justice Department fought us on this and so we had to slow the litigation down.”