Every business wants to spend less on health coverage, but accomplishing that is much easier said than done. There are, however, some actions you can take that will help you breathe a bit easier when it comes time to write the check. Here are five ways to save on health insurance costs:

  1. Encourage preventive care. Let’s take a common illness — the flu — to illustrate the importance of preventive care. Do you know how long a case of the flu typically lasts? One to two weeks. That’s a week or two of missed work, and it also means a visit to the doctor and filling prescriptions. In a worst-case scenario, your employee is one of the 200,000 people that land in the hospital because of seasonal flu each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If your employees get a flu shot, however, they reduce their chances of getting the flu and will likely experience a milder instance of the disease if they do contract it. The few minutes of preventive care the flu shot entails should cut back on health care expenditure and keep your employees healthy and in the office.
  2. Allow time off for doctor’s appointments. When people are punished by losing vacation or sick time for taking a day off to get an annual physical, they are less likely to do it. If your employees don’t get preventive care, though, small problems may grow into big problems that will increase your health insurance costs. Offer employees extra “well” time off for annual physicals — for them and their children. Your employees’ children are just as capable of driving your insurance costs up, so their health needs to be a priority, too.
  3. Encourage your employees to call before visiting the doctor. Call your insurance company’s nurse line, that is. A lot of problems can be resolved with a phone call rather than a doctor’s visit. Not only will this cut your health insurance costs, but it also cuts your employees’ out-of-pocket costs because there’s typically no copay for calling the hotline.
  4. Institute a wellness program. Sometimes companies think you need a complex fitness center before you can really say you have a wellness program, but that’s not true. Offer a discounted gym membership, or provide people with a fitness tracker and have a step contest. Think about preventive health measures under a wellness-program guise, such as starting a quit-smoking program with incentives. A good wellness program that incorporates as many employees as possible will help cut your health care costs.
  5. Audit your plan. If you chose your company plan five years ago, it may not be right for your business now. Things change: You have different employees, and there are new regulations. Make sure your plan fits your current needs and all information is correct (are any family members covered that should no longer be?). Double-check everything.

Keeping health insurance costs down is better for you and your employees, and not only because your company and your workers will be spending less — it means your whole workforce is healthier, too. It’s worth a bit of time, because a small effort could reap big cost-saving and health benefits.

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she interviewed and hired employees, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Her writings have appeared in Inc. Magazine, CBS MoneyWatch, US News, Readers Digest and other publications. She focuses on helping businesses nurture great employees and helping employees enjoy great careers.