Nearly 160,000 Washington residents have enrolled in a qualified health plan through the close of open enrollment on Feb. 15, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has announced.

The Healthplanfinder website experienced significant interest over the weekend, with 40,000 unique site visits and nearly 30,000 calls to the customer support center.

“Interest in accessing free or low-cost health insurance among Washingtonians continues to grow,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “As expected, we experienced a large influx in our Qualified Health Plan enrollment during the final days of open enrollment, and more than 66,000 new customers during the entire second open enrollment period.”

The Exchange also announced a special enrollment opportunity today for residents who were unable to complete their applications by the Feb. 15 deadline or who may become aware of the tax penalty for not having health insurance under the Affordable Care Act when they file their annual tax return this year.

The special enrollment period runs from Feb. 17 to April 17, 2015.

“This special enrollment window will allow these individuals – as well as those who experienced difficulty completing their applications – additional time to get enrolled for 2015 coverage,” said Onizuka, noting that 2015 is the first year that those who don't have health insurance may incur a tax penalty under the ACA.