When it comes to controlling health costs, a check can sometimes work better than a checkup. At Quill Corp., an $80-million distributor of office products in Lincolnshire, Ill., employee health costs were increasing by about 50% every year. So the company came up with an incentive-based plan to curtail unnecessary medical expenses. A key incentive: the promise that everyone would get a share of the money saved.

Quill operates a self-insured medical plan that is 100% employer-paid. When the new cost-containment program was implemented, employees began visiting doctors less frequently, soliciting second opinions before agreeing to major procedures, and checking bills for errors and overcharges. As a result, Quill's health costs in fiscal 1984 are running about 35% lower than projected. Last January, the company awarded the first rebates -- $150 to each of its 525 employees.

"Our incentive program is making employees aware that they are the ones most responsible for their health," says company treasurer Arnold Miller. "They're coming to realize that their doctor isn't God."