• Many brokers recommend switching to a high-deductible health plan coupled with a "deductible buy-down" that's funded by the savings in premiums. Employees pay the same deductible as under the old plan, and the employer "buys down" the rest. The employer is betting that employees won't spend all their deductible dollars. "They invariably use just 30 to 40 percent of the money budgeted," broker Denny Ebersole says.
  • Set up a wellness program that encourages healthful behavior. Scott Leavitt, who runs My Wellchoice+, a national wellness program for small businesses, says claims drop substantially as a result—so rates don't go up as fast. The plans typically cost $3 per employee per month.
  • If you can't provide insurance, your employees may be able to buy individual policies through a trade association. This won't be as affordable as group coverage, but both the prices and the service will be better than if employees approach an insurer on their own.