Taking a beating from rising health-care premiums? A cure may be in sight. An increasing number of insurers are offering plans providing hefty discounts to small companies that can show that their employees follow good health practices.

The Prudential, for example, will discount a health plan by up to 35% for companies with fewer than 500 employees. Each employee must complete a health and lifestyle questionnaire that asks about smoking, drinking, and eating habits. Whether a company qualifies for the discount -- and by how much -- is determined by the overall profile of the company's workers.

Another big insurer, The Travelers Cos., gives discounts of up to 13% for companies with 10 to 49 employees. And the John Alden Life Insurance Co. offers savings of up to 14% for companies with 25 or fewer workers; available now only in the South, the company plans to expand coverage early next year.

To encourage employees to adopt better personal-health practices, other insurers provide various educational materials and individual health-risk assessments. John Alden even offers toll-free telephone access to health-care professionals who will answer questions and refer callers to community resources and support groups.