Three years ago my wife, then my girlfriend, quit her job in New Jersey and moved down to Maryland. In doing so, she also gave up her employer sponsored health insurance, which was a big deal.
Why is employer subsidized/sponsored health insurance so important? There are two reasons why an employer subsidized or sponsored health insurance plan is always emphasized, practically everywhere. The first is that your employer often defrays a significant portion of the plan’s premium payments. The second is that the insurance company agreed to insure all employees as a single class, meaning they can’t pick and choose. If someone has a poor medical history, the insurance company is required to insure that person (of course they can raise the premiums across the board the following year). This is very important for someone with a poor medical history because as an individual they stand a much smaller chance of getting affordable coverage.
If you recently left or lost your job and your former employer had health insurance coverage, they are required by law to extend COBRA coverage. COBRA is both the coverage and an acronym for the bill that created it, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. In fact, I created a mini-site devoted to discussing COBRA called Understand COBRA  that may be of value (All part of my “learn something by blogging about it” mentality). Either way, this will give you some coverage as you seek out independent health insurance.
Use A Broker
eHealthInsurance is a health insurance search engine that has been referenced by major sites like Yahoo! Finance and named the 2008 Best Site for Health Insurance by Kiplingers , but I’ve never personally used them except to research rates (they are owned by eHealth, Inc., which has been in business since 1997). There are many others but some strike me as spammy and eHealthInsurance lets you get a quick ballpark quote using only your zip code, age, whether you smoke, and student status. From there you will be presented with a list of options.
My first option was CareFirst Blue Choice $0 deductible HMO $30 PCP/$40 Specialist starting at $137 a month. The second was CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield $2,500 deductible Indemnity starting at $70 a month. There were maybe a dozen options in total. From there you’ll have to create an account for more information (you will need to provide further personal details including your social security number, current primary care physician, etc.).
Join An Organization
Regardless of the quote you get via eHealthInsurance, you should check out the rates made available to you through various organizations in your area. If you can join a local Chamber of Commerce, oftentimes members have access to group rates for health insurance. You could also consider the Freelancers Union  and see how much insurance would cost through their partners  (they have health, dental, term life, and long term disability). I’m sure there are more out there that offer insurance to their members, but those two are probably the easiest to join.
Marry for Insurance
This one is very tricky and can easily come back to bite you since marriage is both a religious/spiritual and a legally binding agreement. Ignoring the religious/spiritual issues, the legal issues step primarily from the tax perspective. While you may be getting health insurance, you may also come under fire from the marriage penalty when it comes to income taxes. If you opt to go this route, consult a tax professional (or do some math) to see how the various filing scenarios affects your taxes.
This is a good option for those who have serious medical issues that preclude them from getting insurance on their own. If an employer offers health insurance, they cannot, by law, exclude an employee’s spouse from the insurance plan.
Move To A Country w. Universal Health Care
The last and final option for someone who has exhausted all other options is to move to a country that offers a national/universal health insurance program that would cover them. I’m afraid I don’t know much about the health insurance coverage internationally but this Wikipedia page on universal health care  should offer a good start if you’re considering this option.
Did I miss any options?
(Photo: brykmantra )