1. Retire early. If there's some small pension out there, such as one from the government or the military, it's easier to retire than to keep fighting for a job when your health insurance costs make employers unable to hire you.
2. Go bankrupt. If you have serious medical conditions, the only way to get Medicaid is to go bankrupt. Then the government will take care of you. This means you have to blow through your pension that you've worked all your life to save, and that means that you'll be living on the government dole for the rest of your life.
3. Get a job at a convenience store. As long as they don't have to pay benefits, they can pay you $7.50 per hour and know that you'll probably show up for work every day, probably won't miss work because you took Ecstasy and danced all night, and won't mess up the reconciliation of the store receipts at the end of the day.
4. Be a consultant, independent contractor, or self-employed realtor. You can hire out and your employer won't have to pay benefits. This can sometimes offer you good money and, if they hire you as a consultant, your employer gets all your expertise and none of your health insurance costs. You, on the other hand, are still stuck with soaring (or unavailable) health insurance, with the hope that you won't keel over and blow it for your family and retirement and with hope is that you can scrape through until 65 when Medicare kicks in.
5. Live on the street. According to a 2006 The New York Times article  an ever increasing percentage of the homeless in New York are between 55 and 65.
6. Get married to get access to someone else's insurance coverage.
Problems Without a Public Option:
1. You'll probably have to use up your pension. You know, the one you've worked all these years to save that was supposed to help you retire in comfort. Your problem, of course, was just that you didn't know you were starting a savings plan so that it could be harvested at 55 by some pharmaceutical company or some hospital. Silly you! You believed that crap about saving for a comfortable retirement.
2. You'll quit contributing to Social Security at any significant rate and will put additional strain on a system you should have been contributing to at your highest pre-retirement levels.
3. American companies won't be able to hire you -- even though they desperately need experienced, dedicated employees -- because the company's accountants and shareholders won't let them.
4. Without proper and affordable medical care, your health may decline, but then again, there's always bankruptcy and Medicaid.
5. You'll probably have to seek early government assistance or accept whatever minimal level of Social Security they'll offer. After all, both still pay better than the greeter's job at Wal-Mart.
On the other hand, if, pray God, we get a public option whose premium doesn't discriminate based on age or pre-existing conditions, the entire job situation for older workers will change beyond belief virtually overnight.
With a Public Option:
1. Employers will be able to hire you (or not) based on your experience and qualifications. What a concept! Maybe someone with a degree and a 30-year track record of job success might actually make a good new hire? Get outta' here....
2. Fewer older employees will lose their high-paying positions, because the cost of their health care will no longer overshadow their continuing ability to do their job well.