For instance, PEIA pays in-state providers $427 for a CT scan of the abdomen. The average out-of-state cost for the same scan is $2,726.
Board member Jim Dailey, from Martinsburg, said many Eastern Panhandle residents go to Winchester, Va., for medical care out of habit.
"It's a cultural thing," he said. "They do all their shopping and everything in Winchester."
Cheatham said PEIA will be doing a marketing/outreach program with West Virginia University Hospitals-East in Martinsburg to promote in-state care.
The plan also calls for a $100 co-pay for specialty drugs not on PEIA's preferred list.
Cheatham said specialty drugs are very expensive, and with costs varying greatly. He cited growth hormone, where costs between two brands vary between $2,141 and $3,626 per prescription.
Initial reaction to the premium freeze was positive.
John Thompson, international representative for West Virginia Public Employees Union UE 170, thanked the Finance Board for not proposing any premium increases, "especially in light of the fact public employees have not received any salary increases for a number of years."
Afterward, Cheatham said there may be premium increases on the horizon, as the PEIA reserve fund used to offset premium hikes is projected to fall from $156 million to about $115 million during the 2014-15 plan year, requiring increases to stabilize the fund.
Initial projections call for employee premium increases of 12 percent in 2015-16, and 11 percent in 2016-17. Retiree premiums are projected to increase 3 percent, then 10 percent over the same period.
The plan will go out to public hearing next month, with six hearings scheduled around the state, including Beckley on Nov. 11, Charleston on Nov. 12, and Huntington on Nov. 13.
Following those hearings, the board will meet Dec. 6 for a final vote.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.