Retiree Leslie Robinson-Stone and her husband enjoyed a weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip to a luxury resort — all thanks to the county she worked for.
The couple also received more than a thousand dollars in spending money and a personal concierge, who attended to their every need. For Santa Barbara County, it was money well spent: Sending Robinson-Stone 250 miles away for knee replacement surgery near San Diego saved the government $30,000.
“The only difference between our two hospitals is one is expensive and the other is exorbitant,” said Andreas Pyper, assistant director of human resources for Santa Barbara County, referring to the local options.
Frustration with sky-high hospital bills and a lack of local competition is common to many employers and consumers across the country after years of industry consolidation. Fed up with wildly different price tags for routine operations, some private employers are steering patients they insure to top-performing providers who offer bargain prices. Santa Barbara County, with about 4,000 employees, is among a handful of public entities to join them.