A new federal study found that Americans are getting screened for three major cancers — breast, cervical and colorectal — at rates far below national targets. The shortfall is especially high among adults who lack insurance or regular access to a doctor, partly because the recession drove employers to lay off workers or cut health benefits.

Many low- and middle-income people are now unable or unwilling to pay for screening tests or visits to the doctor. Their plight underscores the urgent need to retain the health care reform law that will expand proven screening and prevention programs at no charge to patients.

The study, based on a survey taken in 2010, was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. The three types of cancer were chosen for scrutiny because there is good evidence that, for certain age groups, screening for these cancers can reduce illness and save lives.

The survey results were discouraging.

The health care reform law will ensure that all Americans have access to vital preventive care. It already eliminates cost-sharing for the screenings in Medicare and new private policies, and, starting in 2014, it will expand Medicaid for the poor and provide subsidies to help middle-income people buy private health insurance.

Republicans won’t stop pressing for repeal of the law. American consumers, so many of whom are struggling to pay their health care bills, need to think a lot harder about what they would lose if Republicans get their way.

— The New York Times, Jan. 30


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