How AMERIND Risk Protects Indian Country at a Lower Cost

As seen in Tribal Business Journal


Revenue sharing allows states to take a cut of tribal casino money without directly taxing tribal income. There is no reason for tribal governments and businesses to pay corporate insurance providers more in policy fees to compensate for state and local taxes. Instead, tribes can save up to 15 percent with a tax-exempt insurance carrier.

As the only 100 percent tribally owned insurance provider serving Indian Country, AMERIND transfers its tax savings to its members in the form of lower premium payments. “Tribes are finding it in their best interest to take control,” said Derek Valdo, AMERIND Risk’s CEO and 13-year Acoma Pueblo Council member.

AMERIND Risk considers a tribe’s key risks and designs an insurance program around those risks. Its property, liability and workers’ compensation policies are uniquely crafted to protect tribal assets, while taking cultural preferences into account and saving casinos substantial money. “We’ve saved tribes millions of dollars in insurance premiums that tribal governments, businesses, and enterprises would have paid somewhere else,” Valdo said.

For instance, one of AMERIND’s largest policyholders, a tribal casino, saved nearly half a million dollars on its workers’ compensation premium, annually, when they made the move to AMERIND. Casinos spend more than half in operating costs on payroll and employee benefits. Finding a flexible insurer that provides gaming entities tailored, culturally sensitive coverage and more financial freedom is key.

As a tribally owned company, AMERIND champions Native-owned businesses. It relies on tribal litigators, encourages casinos to do business with Native-owned vendors and suppliers, and AMERIND recommends Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) -certified contractors for property damage incidents. Direct assignment with an AMERIND-vetted, TERO contractor saves tribal governments and businesses time and effort by eliminating the bidding process. “Typically, insurance companies just write checks,” Valdo said. “We developed a direct repair program. Our higher mission is to keep tribal dollars in Indian Country.”

To keep premium payments down, AMERIND emphasizes safety training and risk management, including the importance of training casino employees in emergency response, nonviolent-intervention, CPR, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) techniques, and more. Other services provided by AMERIND’s safety team include ergonomic assessments, and training staff to perform on-site inspections of property and equipment, all at no additional cost through its Tribal Workers’ Compensation (TWC) program. In addition, AMERIND Risk has recently been named an associate member of the National Indian Casino Safety Association (NICSA), in hopes of sharing its vast knowledge, resources and expertise with other Tribal gaming operations.

Casinos statistically experience some of its highest expenses from employee injuries on the job — largely due to slips, trips and falls on wet and uneven surfaces. That’s why AMERIND educates its members to treat safety like a team operation, encouraging proactive hazard resolution and safety leadership. “When supervisors reinforce employee attention to safety with praise, it not only boosts morale, it keeps claims down,” said Robert Dahl, AMERIND’s TWC Program Manager.

A comprehensive TWC policy includes benefits typically found in statutory workers’ compensation, including medical and rehabilitation services, wage loss and death benefits, and an impartial dispute resolution process. Unlike statutory workers’ compensation, however, AMERIND’s TWC program limits the fraud and abuse that’s prevalent in state systems. By appointing seasoned, tribal lawyers to cases and utilizing an arbitration format, AMERIND helps tribes avoid lengthy court battles. “It’s a more informal process, and it saves tribes considerable legal expense,” Dahl said.

If an employee injury occurs, AMERIND’s Return-to-Work program offers relief to both the employer and employee, and facilitates a smoother rehabilitation process. “An employer can really control the indemnity cost— the wage-loss piece — of a claim by bringing an employee back to work and accommodating the restrictions set by a doctor,” Dahl said.

AMERIND does more than protect Indian Country, it gives back. “AMERIND is more than just an insurance company. We support tribal organizations who serve Indian Country,” Valdo states. AMERIND will host its an annual golf fundraiser on April 27. The proceeds help uninsured tribal families whose homes have been devastated by fire or other catastrophes. Also benefitting from the 13th Annual Protecting Tribal Families Golf Fundraiser at Twin Warriors Golf Club at Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, are the American Indian Cancer Foundation and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.

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