Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson Dies at 60

Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson, who was widely praised for his commitment and contributions to holistic affordable care, died on Sunday morning. He was 60.

Kaiser Permanente issued a statement Sunday expressing “profound sadness” and extending their sympathies to Bernard’s family. “An outstanding leader, visionary and champion for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Bernard was a tireless advocate for Kaiser Permanente, our members and the communities we serve,” the statement said.

Tyson, a San Francisco Bay Area native, was named one of the world’s most influential people on the 2017 TIME 100 list. Rep. John Lewis, who wrote the tribute for Tyson, referred to him as “one of the leading authorities on public health in America.”

“He is smart, gifted, thoughtful and a highly respected voice in the struggle to make high-quality health care affordable for every American,” Lewis said. Lewis also praised Bernard’s unique contributions to an “often overlooked aspect of medicine” — mental and emotional health.

He had worked for more than three decades at Kaiser Permanente, one of the country’s largest nonprofit health plans, where he first became CEO in 2013 and served the medical needs of over 11.3 million people. During his time at Kaiser, he prioritized preventative care and accessibility to the public. Under his leadership, Kaiser emphasized wellness programs that focused on nutrition, smoking cessation and exercise.

Kaiser’s membership base, annual revenue and workforce grew significantly under his tenure. When he became CEO in 2013, the company had 9.1 million members and employed 174,000 people. Today, it provides care and coverage to 12.3 million members, employs 218,000 employees and generates an annual revenue of more than $82.8 billion.

Tyson had repeatedly argued that health care must focus on affordability and equity. He wrote for TIME in 2017 that “it’s time for the health care industry to reflect the changing needs of America.”

“Too many Americans who are poor and considered the ‘working poor’ are locked out of the front door to the health care system,” Tyson wrote. “For many, the process of obtaining and maintaining coverage is still too difficult, and this lack of health care impacts their ability to contribute as much as they could to our collective community and to America.”

Tyson was also on TIME’s 2018 list of the 50 people transforming health care for his commitment to investing in wellness development for zip codes who need it most. Kaiser’s Future Baltimore initiative was recognized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for its impact on a West Baltimore neighborhood.

Additionally, Tyson had lent his influential voice to a variety of national causes, from hunger to solving homelessness to race.

He pointed to his father as one his personal inspirations at the 2017 TIME Gala. “My father was a wonderful male image for me. He was a strong individual. He was mighty. He was a preacher. He was a carpenter. He was a man of few words, but he always had wisdom and insights,” he said.

Tyson’s death was followed by a flood of condolences from politicians, journalists and health advocates. They referred to his demise as a “momentous loss” and him as an “extraordinary person.”

Bernard Tyson’s rise carried with it a ripple effect of diversity in senior roles across Kaiser Permanente. A momentous loss. https://t.co/39RgREtjOa

— Esther Choo (@choo_ek) November 10, 2019

I am heartbroken upon learning of the passing of Bernard Tyson. Bernard dedicated his life to making health care more accessible for our communities. My prayers and condolences are with his family and loved ones during this time. https://t.co/fm4jad0SRW

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) November 10, 2019

Deeply saddened by the unexpected death of Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson. He was an extraordinary person, a health equity visionary — he also helped me establish the race beat @FortuneMagazine. Sending love to his family and gratitude for his contributionshttps://t.co/P8iQTC6gpT

— Ellen McGirt (@ellmcgirt) November 10, 2019

Deeply saddened to learn of @BernardJTyson‘s passing, one of America’s great leaders in healthcare.
Our conversation 3 years ago when he reviewed his near death prior to bypass surgery in 2006https://t.co/jL3o4rLThZ

— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) November 10, 2019

I’m devastated to hear about the passing of my good friend and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson. One of the only African-American CEO’s of a major company, Bernard played an important role in our community. pic.twitter.com/WaF85E3cbD

— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 10, 2019

I am devastated by the passing of business and healthcare leader Bernard Tyson, a generous supporter of @NMAAHC and @Smithsonian. I will miss his leadership, counsel, and supportive nature. My condolences to Bernard’s wife Denise Bradley-Tyson and to his friends and family.

— Lonnie G. Bunch III (@SmithsonianSec) November 10, 2019

Tyson is survived by his wife, Denise Bradley-Tyson and three sons, Bernard J. Tyson Jr., Alexander and Charles

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Contributor: Sanya Mansoor