By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – With the federal Affordable Care Act at risk of repeal, the future of Medicaid in Montana is shaping up to be a key topic this legislative session.

At an initial budget hearing Monday morning at the Capitol, Montana State Medicaid Director Mary Dalton gave lawmakers an overview, saying Medicaid’s goal is to ensure all eligible Montanans have vital care available within available funds.

“We always look for the way to spend the least amount of state general fund or state special revenue funds, and the most federal funds,” Dalton said.

In Montana, for every 35 cents the state receives, the federal government rounds it up to a full Medicaid dollar.

Dalton cautioned lawmakers on cutting optional services, like physical or speech therapy, because, she says: “You are disproportionately affecting people that have disabilities.”

This session, lawmakers are facing a tight budget and have warned that many areas of the state budget could be trimmed. Meanwhile, in Washington, leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act – and with it, funding for expanded state Medicaid programs.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.