Health insurance form Byextending the time frame to sign up for COBRA coverage, people haveat least 120 days to decide whether they want to elect COBRA, andpossibly longer depending on when they lost their jobs. (Photo:Shutterstock)

People who've been laid off or furloughed from their jobs nowhave significantly more time to decide whether to hang on to theiremployer-sponsored health insurance, according to a recent federalrule.

Under the federal law known as COBRA, people who lose their job-based coveragebecause of a layoff or a reduction in their hours generally have 60days to decide whether to continue their health insurance. Butunder the new rule, that clock doesn't start ticking until the end ofthe COVID-19 "outbreak period," which started March 1 and continuesfor 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency ends. That enddate hasn't been determined yet.

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