News with clear eyes. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

U.S. residents with private health insurance are less likely than other U.S. residents to have trouble with paying medical bills, but some do.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published that finding in a report on problems with paying for medical care.

The CDC researchers based the report on National Health Interview Survey data collected during the first half of 2011.

The researchers found that about 22% of all U.S. residents under age 65 were in families that had had trouble paying medical bills in the past 12 months.

The medical bill trouble rate was 36% for people who were uninsured, 28% for people enrolled in government health insurance programs, and 16% for people with private health insurance.

The share with medical bills that families could not pay at all was 23% for the uninsured, 18% for the government-insured, and 6.2% for the privately insured.

But the share that are currently paying medical bills over time was comparable for all three groups: 34% for the uninsured, 28% for the government-insured, and 27% for the privately insured.

MEDICAID?

Republicans in the House and Senate are asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why her department has missed the Jan. 1 deadline for giving Congress a report on Medicaid’s financial status and spending trends.

The government is expecting to spend $4.4 trillion on Medicaid over the next 10 years, and the Medicaid actuarial report is required by law, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., write in a letter addressed to Sebelius.

HEALTH SYSTEM CHANGE ABROAD

A new government health program seems to be improving the infant mortality rate in Thailand, according to a group of researchers led by Jonathan Gruber.

“Using vital statistics records, we find that the increased access to healthcare by the publicly insured poor led to a reduction in their infant mortality of at least 6.5 per 1,000 births,” according to a team of researchers led by Jonathan Gruber. “This suggests significant improvements in infant mortality rates can be achieved through increased access to healthcare services for the poor and marginalized groups.”

The researchers make that argument in a working paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Mass. 

The Thai health system change program quadrupled funding for hospital care for the poorest 30% of the population and also overhauled coverage for the uninsured.

Previously uninsured people used more health care, and more private care, but the increase in use of care was greater for infants who had previously been in public health programs and for women of child-bearing age, the researchers say.