State economists say enrollment in Medicaid will spike by 16.5 percent this fiscal year, fueled by the economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, states are seeing substantial growth in the program that serves poor, elderly and disabled people, but a high-ranking Medicaid official conceded that Florida is experiencing some of the biggest increases. “When you look at across the nation, we are probably ranked within the top eight of all the states with the increased percentage,” Tom Wallace, the state Agency for Health Care Administration’s assistant deputy secretary for Medicaid finance analytics, told members of a panel known as the Social Services Estimating Conference last week. “There are a few states above us that have increases, but everyone is experiencing some sort of increases.” In an analysis posted online Monday, economists forecast that 4.442 million people will enroll in Medicaid during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which began July 1 and will end June 30. If the forecast holds, that total would be 16.5 percent higher than the previous year enrollment of 3.814 million. Enrollment is projected to continue increasing to 4.588 million in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which will start July 1. The Medicaid program does not cover all low-income Floridians and has different eligibility criteria based on age, income and assets and medical condition. Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said she expected to see spikes in Medicaid enrollment but was surprised to see how widespread the increases have been. “The increase (in enrollment) was virtually — except for three or four (eligibility) categories — everywhere,” Baker said, noting that she expected to see increases in the numbers of children served but wasn’t expecting to see enrollment increases in long-term care programs. “I think what we saw in the data was more complex than what I was expecting it to be,” she said.