A Businessweek.com article, Get Used to the Pain, notes that the average cost of health insurance for employees is expected to rise 16% this year. In 2004, employers should expect a slightly less painful increase of 12%, according the Towers Perrin’s 2004 Health Care Cost Survey released on September 29. And there doesn't seem to be any relief in sight -- employers should brace themselves for more double digit increases over the next decade.

What's causing costs to skyrocket? High HMO rates, increases in prescription drug use, increases in the cost of hospital services, and the "graying boomers," who generally use more health care than their younger counterparts, are just a few reasons.

Employers are taking action to combat the hike. They're becoming better consumers of health care -- negotiating and shopping for better plans. They're also educating employees to become better purchasers of health services. But unfortunately, for many smaller businesses, the hikes have become too much to bear and some companies are scrapping plans all together.

What are your plans for combatting the rising cost of health care? Do you have any advice for reducing the bill that other business owners might benefit from?