Missouri is using an existing program to ensure that individuals can exercise the health coverage access rights available under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

In July, the Missouri Health Insurance Pool will become an “alternative mechanism” for fulfilling portability requirements under HIPAA, officials say.

HIPAA guarantees that individuals who have health insurance can continue to buy health coverage, even if they become sick, and it permits those individuals to use the newly acquired coverage without satisfying a pre-existing condition waiting period.

Missouri has operated MHIP since 1991, but the program was not a HIPAA alternative mechanism. Insureds had to complete a waiting period of up to 12 months before they could get coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The updated program will be an alternative mechanism for “HIPAA eligible” individuals who cannot buy coverage from conventional health insurers.

The program also will serve individuals who find they would have to pay at least 50% more than healthy people pay for conventional coverage.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Kansas City, Mo., and a unit of WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis, administer the MHIP coverage.