We try to be a professional company that chooses to be in the remodeling business," says Frank Zehna, president of Christian Roofing & Remodeling in Athens, Ga. But it wasn't until this year that he was able to offer health insurance to his employees. By cutting marketing and other expenses and raising sales goals, Zehna is now able to provide it and pay 50% of the premiums as well.

For most remodelers, wanting to offer their employees health insurance is not at issue; neither is seeing the value of the benefit. It's just that they can't afford to. When they can't, their employees are left to fend for themselves in procuring this important benefit that many people in other professions take for granted. Traditionally, this means meeting with an insurance agent, who provides fairly limited options and charges a sizable fee.

The widespread use of the Internet, however, has changed all this. Now, an individual can visit an online health insurance "store" -- HealthAllies.com, E-Insure, and Marsh Advantage America are the names of a few -- and shop for health insurance.

Some sites are "lead generators," which ask for a lot of personal information and then have insurance companies send quotes a few weeks later. Others -- including eHealthInsurance.com -- ask for basic information like state, sex, and date of birth and provide information on a wide range of plans. Customers can then compare up to four plans side by side in order to see what's best for them. The site also allows for online purchasing and has a similar process for small business owners.