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An Apple a Day . . . Take time to give your business's health plan a checkup.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Jason Crawforth started Treetop Tech Inc. in 1997, he didn't offer employees company-sponsored health coverage.

"We started losing potential employees because [of that]," says the 37-year-old Boise, Idaho, software developer. So in 2000, Crawforth added health coverage to the company's benefits--just in time to catch an astonishing upward spiral in health premiums.

Since 2001, premiums for family coverage have gone up about 78 percent, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Meanwhile, wages have gone up just 19 percent, making it much harder for workers to afford coverage. Higher prices also mean that fewer companies are offering benefits. In 2000, 69 percent of firms offered health benefits, but only 60 percent do today. Although future cost increases seem inevitable, entrepreneurs have found some effective ways to rein in rising health coverage outlays.