PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nothing like the devastating hurricanes of 2005 to get
On a balmy fall day in Florida, Kent Paul, CEO of AMERIND Risk Management,
found that the United Southern and Eastern Tribes were out in force -- and
ready to listen.
While he's glad for the chance to show USET what AMERIND can offer in the
way of protecting tribal sovereignty, life and property, he regrets that
USET leaders waited until they were under duress. "AMERIND is the answer,
but it's not an answer at the last minute when everyone's scrambling for
"We're the best kept secret in Indian country, and oftentimes it isn't
until disaster strikes that people find out about us," Paul said. "Since we
only have 34 people in our company, we have to rely on word of mouth."
AMERIND, a nonprofit risk pool, provides Indian country an alternative to
purchasing regular insurance. Since there is no profit-taking or
governmental taxes, AMERIND can provide the same coverage as Allstate or
State Farm at 60 to 75 percent of the cost.
"Rather than profits going back to benefit stockholders of companies the
way it usually works, our profits are returned directly to our policy
holders in the form of low rates," said Paul. "Also, many of our tribes are
located where there is no fire protection or water. Still, we are able to
offer them coverage 25 to 40 percent below what a State Farm or Hartford
plan would be -- if those companies would even consider giving that type of
coverage in remote areas."
"AMERIND is tribes protecting tribes, their families, and their employees.
Yet within tribal leadership circles, AMERIND is not a household word. In
fact, very few tribal leaders know that their tribe has equity interest in
this company. That's unfortunate because Indian country could literally
save millions if tribes would use their own company to protect their
infrastructure instead of taking that same money to for-profit companies."
AMERIND was formed by 175 Indian housing authorities in 1986 at the request
of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today, 450 tribes have
interests in the company; but because the tie comes through Indian housing
authority offices, oftentimes the tribal government is unaware of the
Paul hopes that situation will start to turn around since, after the
financial fallout from this year's hurricanes hits the major insurance
companies, he suspects that many hard-pressed firms will bow out of rural
areas. That's why he thinks AMERIND is the answer for the tribes.
"We like to say that we're a shining star in Indian country with tribes
working together -- pooling millions of dollars to protect themselves,"
said Paul. He added that "Next year on our 20th anniversary, we'll have a
big shindig because many said we'd never make it ... We're very proud of
AMERIND has three risk pools, with the first geared to protect housing
owned by the tribe. "But probably our more important program, though, is
[our] second program -- the individual risk pool," said Paul.
"We protect the families and personal property and liability that are in
those houses. There are virtually no companies that are stepping up and
providing this type of protection to Indian families on reservations, but
since we launched the program in 2000, over 10,000 families have taken
advantage of our offer." Paul noted that about 15 percent of the members in
the individual risk pool pay AMERIND directly, while the majority uses what
he calls a community shield policy that tribes purchase on behalf of its
The tribal employee protection program is AMERIND's third risk pool. It
works as an alternative to workers' compensation that frees tribes from
having to deal with state legalities. As Paul explained, "If a tribe adopts
New Mexico workman's compensation, for example, then by default they have
to be in state courts and deal with all the issues of New Mexico. So at the
request of the tribes, AMERIND created an alternative program [that] tribes
or tribal concerns can purchase instead of having to comply with state law.
It was launched January 2005, and more and more tribes are participating
because it is the right thing to do."
AMERIND formerly had offices in Washington, D.C., but the company relocated
to Albuquerque last year to be closer to its client base. Members of
AMERIND enjoy 100 percent total replacement cost on their homes, as did the
12 families whose homes on the Rincon Reservation burned in the California
firestorms of 2003.
Paul urges tribes and residents of Indian country to check out AMERIND and
see if, indeed, the company's reputation doesn't stand up to the test.
"We're cost-effective," said Paul. "Our products are flexible so that we
can tailor them to the needs of individual tribes. And we're stable."