The “Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs” list serves to elevate awareness of the innovation, professionalism, competence and tenacity demonstrated by Native entrepreneurs across Indian Country. Native Business is rolling out profiles of these 50 Native entrepreneurs online, in no particular hierarchy, to document and memorialize their innovation and self-determination. The inaugural class of the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs recognizes leaders across 13 business sectors, demonstrating the diversity of industries where Natives are making an impact. Among the entrepreneurs recognized in our Insurance sector is Robert Weaver, Founder of RWI Benefits.
Entrepreneurship can be a solitary pursuit — but not for health care consultant Robert Weaver, a member of the Quapaw Nation. “You see a need that’s unmet,” he says. “You work to find solutions yourself, you see if other people have solutions, and you try to get a group of people together, and then you really actually begin to chip away at the problem.”
People and populations are the key. Weaver has mastered the complexities of the health insurance system, and serves as the catalyst to get Tribes better care at a better price.
“It’s the Law of Large Numbers,” he observes. “There are millions of us. We should have access to not just second or third-rate care, we should have the best.”
Through his company RWI Benefits, Weaver has consulted over 40 Tribes, analyzing health care arrangements and designing improvements. “They have the people who can do the work,” he says. “They just don’t have the subject-matter expertise. So typically — I call it triage. I triage the worst parts first. I fix the things that are bleeding out.” Within three months, he says, he’s reconfiguring the Tribal plan, and his work is usually done in about a year.
Weaver has the entrepreneur’s obsession with details, because that’s really where the money, or in this case, the savings, resides. “I love getting IHS [Indian Health Service] and the Tribe working together well,” he says. “I find a lot of the insurance producers aren’t trained on how to work with IHS. So consequently, they’re leaving a lot of money on the table, because they aren’t using the laws [to realize] the savings that Tribes can get.”
Weaver made headlines in February 2018 as President Trump’s nominee to lead the Indian Health Service. His nomination fell apart as he faced criticism in Washington and from Indian country — but he has no regrets, and would do the whole thing again for the insights and contacts gained. “I have thick skin, so it doesn’t bother me,” he says. “I’m just thinking about that baby that’s gonna die if we don’t fix something.”