There is a growing number of patients who seek to pay for medical treatment with cash in order to negotiate for lower prices, according to a recent Los Angeles Times report.

Historically, information about patient out-of-pocket costs has not been available, but that is beginning to change. In Southern California and around the country, a variety of businesses, government agencies and employers have begun offering tools to aid the quest for less expensive medical care.

According to the Times report, a variety of groups made up of pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies and health industry insiders are pushing for the release of more price information to increase financial transparency. At the same time, various websites are helping consumers trim their medical costs.

Operating in 44 markets, including Los Angeles, the PokiDok.com website allows users to search through the 50 most-shopped medical procedures and compare cash prices among 40,000 providers. If the website doesn't have a price for the procedure you need, it can seek up to five quotes for you. If you share your own insurance information, it can determine whether it's less expensive to use your health insurance policy or simply pay cash.

Based in New York, ClearHealthCosts.com questions healthcare providers in eight markets, including Los Angeles, to find cash prices on up to 35 common procedures. The site also can show you the Medicare reimbursement rate for care in your area. It shares information from other patients about their experiences with various providers.

The website works with news organizations around the country, including public radio station KPCC in Pasadena, to gather prices directly from patients.

Some doctors have embraced the new medical marketplace and use financial transparency to market their services. A website called MediBid.com allows providers to bid on needed medical procedures.

Despite recent progress, there is no comprehensive database of medical procedure costs available for consumers. However, a recent report by iHealthBeat said there has been a growing drive in the public and private sectors to make such information available. As anexample, it noted that the federal government now publishes more than 100 hospital quality ratings.

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