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Casey Christie / The Californian

People wait in line Wednesday morning at Clinica Sierra Vista for medical treatment with their families on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. This is the East Bakersfield Community Health Center.

A collaborative of local hospitals, health care providers and other agencies will roll out a program aiming to lower hospital readmissions of Medicare patients.

The collaborative applied and was selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for the Community-based Care Transitions Program. Clinica Sierra Vista is the lead agency for the local program.

Clinica CEO Steve Schilling said the collaborative will be reimbursed up to $4.4 million for two years, money that will be used to hire personnel to help coordinate care before and after patients leave the hospital.

"(The program is) awesome, it's great news for Kern County," said Lynne Ashbeck, regional vice president for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California. Ashbeck has helped coordinate the Kern County Care Transitions Collaborative.

The program's staff will help the patients prepare for discharge and then make home visits and follow-up contact with folks after they leave the hospital. The goal is to make sure people are getting the follow-up care and medications they need and have access to other necessities to reduce the chances that they will wind up back in the hospital.

Under the Affordable Care Act, CMS will penalize hospitals a portion of their reimbursement for patients readmitted to the hospital within 30 days for certain conditions.

"If we can differ or divert a certain number (of patients from returning to hospitals), this program substantially pays for itself," Schilling said.

Schilling said 12 to 15 positions will be created and the collaborative is in talks with a Southern California subcontractor to provide those services.

There will be some start-up costs but Schilling said he would be asking local hospitals to chip in to cover them.