TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of people taking advantage of a special enrollment period for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, with 146,250 people obtaining health insurance between Feb. 15 and March 31.

Nationwide, more than 500,000 people obtained so-called Obamacare coverage during that period, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

READ MORE: Crestview Towers Residents Gather To Protest Lack Of Work Being Done To Repair The Property

“Access to quality, affordable health care is essential — especially as we tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a prepared statement.

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, which works to sign up people for insurance, attributed the success to increased awareness of coverage options.

READ MORE: Large Crime Scene In Brownsville After Man Found Shot

“Having to deal with the challenges of more than a year of a global pandemic has necessarily helped educate more people who have an ongoing need to find out what resources and assistance are out there,” Ray said.

“Even though Florida has pretty much always led the country, we’ve always believed that we could have had even much bigger numbers the past few years if we had the outreach and marketing tools and budgets that we’re now beginning to see.”

MORE NEWS: Rise In School Fights Another Pandemic Casualty

(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

CBSMiami.com Team