NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is welcome news for people laid off and looking for health care insurance.

The deadline to sign up for COBRA has been extended. On Wednesday, CBS2’s Cory James found out what that means for area residents.

Ali Shabazzel is trying to stay positive but like many people, he has been stripped of his health insurance after losing his job because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Right now, I have a hip injury and I can’t afford to get it looked at. It pains me every day,” Shabazzel said.

But the Department of Labor announced Wednesday it has joined forces with the Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service to extend the timeframe for people wanting insurance under COBRA.

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The continuation coverage allows those who recently lost their job to keep their same insurance plan. Under normal circumstances, someone unemployed would only get 60 days to elect into the program. However, this new change extends deadline, giving people who qualify until the Aug. 28 to make a decision.

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Mark Hershleg is a New Jersey health insurance broker who specializes in employment benefits. He told CBS2 this is happening because of the national emergency that started in March.

“And for some individuals, this even exceeds the more than 60 days because if they lost a job March 1 they have six months to elect for COBRA,” Hershleg said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Brian Graff with the American Retirement Association said the extended deadline also includes antibody tests for COBRA customers.

“Previously, it was unclear if for folks who are going out and trying to get an antibody test a lot of the providers were saying it isn’t covered. It appears now it will be covered,” Graff said.

But it’s coverage Shabazzel said he still can’t afford.

“Everything is costly, especially if you haven’t been working,” he said.

And it could cost even more, because depending on when you select COBRA the premiums for it could force you to pay thousands of dollars for coverage.

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