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Oklahoma lawmakers, tribes discuss insurance

Tribes are interested in starting insurance businesses in Oklahoma, but recognizing sovereign immunity is a major hurdle for the state, House committee is told.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: October 17, 2012
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American Indian tribes are interested in getting into the insurance business in Oklahoma, but the state must be willing to treat them equally as sovereign governments, tribal leaders told a legislative committee Tuesday.

“Tribes each have their own governments and those governments are sovereign,” said Robert Weaver, government-to-government health care legislative appointee of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. “My perception is that many tribal leaders in the past and even some in current times has been that the states, including Oklahoma, are not as open to working on a government-to-government basis as we would like. I believe we as tribes want to work closer with the state, but we have to be seen as at least equals because we are sovereign.”

State Insurance Commissioner John Doak told members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Insurance Committee that his agency supports tribes getting involved in the insurance industry.

But he wants to ensure there are proper consumer protections.

“We want to explore all opportunities, but the heart of the matter is consumer protections, the solvency and how the companies are put together to make sure that they fit with good, sound state-based insurance regulation, which allows them to operate not only within Oklahoma but to be accepted in other states,” Doak said. “There's a learning curve for both of us.”

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