A Note From The Chairman - Spring / Summer 2019
I am a very happy person these days because the Quapaw Nation is in better shape financially than I could have ever imagined. We have more work than ever with the EPA at Tar Creek and QSA is up to the task of delivering the work and making tremendous revenues for the Nation and for the many employees that have great and secure jobs at the site. We are also building capacity at our Beef, Bison and Pork USDA-inspected processing plant, and the future of our agriculture programs is leading Indian Country into a great future. I am also very pleased
to announce that, after some hard work and the vote of the State of Arkansas, I was able to present our application to the Arkansas Racing Commission; and, I met with the Commission on the 13th of June. I was so excited and delighted (and excited) to receive a GAMING LICENSE in ARKANSAS that has a present-day value of around $800 Million Dollars. YIPPIE YAHOO! I am overwhelmed with joy and the future for our people today and way into the future. It is such a great feeling to be able to reestablish The Quapaw Nation in our homeland. Saracen
Casino Resort will dramatically change forever the Quapaw Nation. Construction has begun, and we look to open early next year. WEEECHA!
Your employees and directors are doing a great job from social services to education to public safety; we are so fortunate to have such great team members dedicated to the Quapaw Nation. We have spent over $6 million in the first 2 quarters of 2019 on services to Tribal members; so, we will provide over $12 million in services to our people this year alone. That is our job, and I am so proud of our Nation for doing these things for our citizens.
Downstream Casino Resort has improved year over year the last 2 quarters, and we are so impressed with the efforts so many to make our flagship economic engine such a great success. I am so proud of our entire team.
Our marketing efforts and creative ways to increase revenues are matched by our team constantly looking to reduce our costs, and I am very proud of those efforts.
Change is often difficult, especially in our Tribal Insurance programs. After several years with RWI, the Business Committee unanimously voted to change to UMR. This important topic that we want to address is the change in the administration of the Quapaw Employee Health Plans and Quapaw Tribal Member Plan. The plans were moved from Native Care Health to UMR in January 2019. UMR is the wholly-owned administrator arm of United Healthcare (UHC) and, as such, has access to its proprietary national network.
It is important for tribal members to understand that the change was a result of roughly 18 months of discussions, meetings, and requests for information. The Business Committee made the decision to hire a new broker/consultant to help us analyze and compare other administrators/network solutions in the market. With their assistance and analysis provided and reviewed, the Business Committee unanimously decided to switch to UMR as our administrator for all of our plans. This move will position the plans to be in the best possible financial position and enable us to more effectively control costs for both the plan and members as we
We previously had a network arrangement provided by Native Care Health that was a combination of a direct contract with a local provider (Freeman) and several other local/regional network solutions. The UMR network is a large, nationwide network solution that locally also provides in-network access to both the Freeman and Mercy Health Systems.
During this thorough process, the current network solution was analyzed in comparison to other network solutions available within the market. The analysis revealed that significant savings, as well as enhanced provider access, available to the plan with a move to the comprehensive, national network solution provided by UMR / UHC.
The estimated network discounts for UMR as revealed by the analysis were 59%. We are happy to report that through the first quarter of 2019, the network discounts actually being realized by the plan are 64%. As we continue to progress through the year, more data will continue to provide us with detailed claims information that will allow us to better track and manage our plan dollars.
After experiencing a slow start, the Quapaw Tribal Member Plan is operating more smoothly today. We expect a certain degree of discomfort with any transition such as this, and it took some time to work out some details in the plan; but, we are currently paying claims at a consistent rate. We appreciate the patience of our tribal members as we made changes to the plan to make claims processing and claims reimbursement faster for our members.
In short, in fiscal 2019, we are projecting to save more than $2 million from switching from RWI to UMR. $2 million that, if you look back just five years, if we had changed earlier would have saved us in excess of $10 million. These dollars are so important; that is enough money to provide our entire social services, education and insurance for one year. It’s very sad to me that our trust was misused for the sake of profit over the betterment of our people. I personally apologize for not changing our plans away from RWI sooner. On a go-forward basis, I promise more diligence and cost comparisons on our vendors; and, obviously, trust but verify is our new motto.
For the last 17 years of my life, I have done my very best to bring and close
a settlement with the United States of America and the Department of the Interior in several lawsuits for the breach of trust of our Quapaw Tribe and to the members who suffered horribly, by the failure of the United States to live up to its Trust Responsibility. In 2016, we reached a settlement number that the Business Committee and over 95% of the class members agreed to, and then, as we closed in on getting large amounts of money to hundreds of members and ultimately to all members of the Quapaw Nation. But greed, lies, and interference have, once again, slowed this process.
In 2002, we sued for an accounting of federal management of the Nation’s funds and trust assets. This resulted in the Quapaw Analysis, a study which the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior agreed to use as the basis of a mediation of Quapaw breach-of trust claims. However, after the report was completed in the summer of 2010, the Justice Department and the DOI refused to mediate, as they had agreed. The Justice Department told us to file a lawsuit.
We filed suit in 2011 in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. The litigation included separate cases for tribal members and the Nation but was limited to claims within the statute of limitations. Many Quapaw citizens no longer have Indian trust assets. For their benefit, I personally worked throughout most of 2012 to obtain special legislation in Congress to permit us to pursue claims for which the statute of limitations has run and for Quapaw whose families lost their Indian lands long ago. In late 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a “congressional reference” to permit us to pursue those claims. Such legislation is very rare we were told the resolution we obtained was the first to pass the House in many years.
After we began trial in September 2016, we reached agreement in principle with the Justice Department on a proposed settlement amount, although the details were left to be worked out by the parties. Finally, in the summer of 2018, after some two years of negotiations, we were finally cleared to present settlement offers to the individuals who still have claims within the limitations period. The Business Committee and well over 95% of the eligible individuals accepted their settlement offers. Completing this part of the settlement would have allowed us to move to the settlement of the congressional reference case, which benefits everyone in the tribe.
Just as we were about to complete the paperwork, a handful of individuals objected to their offers (some revoked their earlier acceptances), and the settlement eventually fell apart. These individuals hired a Tulsa lawyer to challenge the proposed settlement allocation for which he would be paid a contingency fee of up to 40% of whatever additional money he could get for them. We stood firm on the settlement offers that nearly everyone had agreed to, believing they were fair and reasonable. This small group made up lies about me and our attorneys and demanded more than half of all of the settlement. It just makes me so sad that, once again, greed has hurt our people. We did our best to save the proposed settlement, but we were not successful. This has been very disappointing to many, including to me. As a result, now everybody will have
to wait for the conclusion of the trial and possible appeals to see what damages will be awarded.
I want you to know that the Quapaw Nation is not giving up. The Court has scheduled the trial to resume on September 30, and our legal team is working to get the best recovery of damages at trial. We are also committed to continuing these claims for individual Quapaws who have continued to support the process we began more than 17 years ago. This means that the litigation will cost them nothing the Nation will continue paying all legal fees as it has for the last several years, except for those who have hired separate attorneys at their own cost.
The Quapaw Nation believes in the justice of our cause. We welcome this chance to finally get some final measure of justice for the government’s historic mismanagement of our Nation’s funds and trust assets.
I will not give up. I will not agree to a small group that demand most of the settlement, and we will continue to fight for all Quapaw people.
I hope everyone has a safe and fun summer, and I look forward to seeing you all in July.
John L Berrey