A new rule issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic gives furloughed and laid-off workers in the long-term care industry extra time to decide whether they want to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance. 

Under the federal law known as COBRA, people who lose their job-based coverage because of a layoff or a reduction in their hours usually have 60 days to decide whether to continue with that same health plan. The updated rule pushes the timeframe, giving workers another 60 days past whenever the COVID-19 national emergency is declared to be at an end — a date that hasn’t even been determined yet. Under the rule, once the administration declares the national emergency over, laid-off workers would get 120 days to decide whether to purchase their job-based insurance — 60 days under the new rule and the regular 60 days allowed as part of the original COBRA law.

The extension is available only to people who worked at firms with 20 or more employees and who had employer-sponsored coverage before being laid off or furloughed. Further, employers are not mandated to inform workers promptly about their eligibility for COBRA. 

“Once an employer lays you off, they don’t have to notify you that you’re eligible for COBRA until after the emergency period,” Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Kaiser News.