Tyson had a 30-year career with Kaiser and eventually rose through the ranks to become the CEO in 2013. During his time, the integrated health-care system and insurance company grew from 9 million members, with more than 174,000 employees, to more than 12 million members with an employee base of 218,000. Under his leadership, the country’s largest nonprofit health system became a leading advocate in the push to improve the delivery of benefits and care.
Many Black leaders mourned Tyson’s death with tributes, including ball player and businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
“I’m devastated to hear about the passing of my good friend and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson,” he tweeted. “One of the only African-American CEO’s of a major company, Bernard played an important role in our community.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee tweeted:
“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.”
Tyson was recently making moves in the area of social determinants of health, economic and social issues in lower-income communities. Last spring, Kaiser launched a $200 million fund to help tackle some of those issues in the San Francisco Bay Area, half of which would take on homelessness and affordable housing.
“We’re here every day and making sure that we provide coverage. We have all kinds of financial assistance program for our members … so our incentives are all aligned to the community benefits and the well-being of the entire community,” Tyson explained on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” last week.
Of course, Kaiser Permanente wasn’t without critics either. The National Union of Healthcare Workers had planned a five-day strike starting Monday, which would have included 4,000 Kaiser Permanente psychologists, mental heath therapists and other medical professionals. According to SF Gate, the protest was planned to improve access to mental health care and to boost the recruitment and retention of clinicians by securing certain retirement and health benefits for Kaiser employees.
However, even NUHW decided to postpone the strike out of respect for Tyson. “We offer our condolences to Bernard’s family, friends and colleagues,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said in a statement. “Our members dedicate their lives to helping people through tragedy and trauma, and they understood that a strike would not be appropriate during this period of mourning and reflection.”
Tyson is survived by his wife, Denise Bradley-Tyson, along with his three sons. Kaiser Permanente’s board placed Gregory Adams, executive vice president and group president, as the interim chairman and CEO. Tyson’s cause of death has not been disclosed.
You can check out more tributes to Tyson below.