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Laid-Off Workers Granted More Time to Sign Up for COBRA

According to a recent federal rule, individuals who have been laid off or furloughed will now have additional time to decide whether to continue with the same employer-sponsored health insurance.

With the new rule’s extended timeframe, individuals will have at least 120 days to decide whether they want to elect COBRA, and maybe even longer depending on the time they were laid off — 60 days under the new rule and the regular 60 days allowed as part of the COBRA law.

Traditionally under COBRA, those who have lost their job-based coverage due to being laid off or a reduction in hours, have 60 days to decide whether to continue with their current health plan. The recently issued rule temporarily extends most COBRA deadlines to beyond the “Outbreak Period,” which it defines as March 1, 2020 to 60 days after the end of the declared COVID-19 national emergency — which has yet to be determined.

“The new final rule extends certain of those time frames to assist employers and employees in the process of maintaining employer-sponsored group health plan coverage.”

Brian Gilmore, Lead Benefits Counsel and Vice President at ABD Insurance & Financial Services. Resource SHRM

During the pandemic, some employers are choosing to pay for a former employees’ COBRA coverage if laid off, as well as for current employees who lost group health plan coverage when furloughed or had hours reduced. COBRA can be a lifeline for employees who have lost their jobs during the current pandemic, allowing them to continue with their current health plan.

It is important to note that the COBRA extension is available only to individuals who were employed at companies with 20 or more employees and who had employer-sponsored health coverage before being laid off or furloughed. If an individual is uninsured, self-employed, or works for a smaller company (less than 20 employees), the extension will not apply.

COVID-19 FAQ’s for Participants and Beneficiaries can be found here. Information provided by NPR.