Close up image of a caretaker helping older woman walk

Some of the nation’s largest senior care organizations on Wednesday asked members of Congress to stop treating them as “second-class” care providers, especially when it comes to funding and technology. The nation’s largest nonprofit provider chain put its support behind a bill that would boost broadband access for rural skilled nursing facilities during a House hearing.

The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015, currently up for consideration in the House, would make SNFs eligible for broadband funding in order to increase access to telemedicine and improve the exchange of electronic health records.

That additional support is “substantial and critical” for rural providers, said Dan Holdhusen, director of government relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology during the hearing. Holdhusen was speaking on behalf of Good Samaritan, as well as the American Health Care Association.

“Unfortunately, we have seen SNFs overlooked in terms of resources available for access to affordable broadband services in a number of federal policies,” Holdhusen said. “But this bill gives us hope that SNFs will no longer be treated as second-class providers of senior care.”

The bill would particularly impact Good Samaritan, which currently operates 168 facilities across the country — 73% of them in rural areas. The bill also would help lower healthcare costs for seniors in rural settings, Holdhusen said.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate in November.