Health Care

Bernard Tyson, Visionary Leader in Health

November 11, 2019  • Aaron Myers

Many working to make quality health care accessible for all Americans were saddened Sunday to learn of Bernard J. Tyson’s passing. As chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, Tyson championed affordable and accessible treatment along with preventive care for all.

Tyson was also a member of the Aspen Health Strategy Group, an organization whose purpose is to promote improvements in health policy and practice by providing leadership on important and complex health issues. In that role and as a visionary leader in health care, Tyson appeared in a special session on the Aspen Institute stage in 2018 as part of that summer’s Spotlight Health gathering. Recalling Tyson’s insight during the session, Aspen Institute vice president Peggy Clark called on colleagues to remember Tyson, “for all he did as a visionary leader in health care.”

Tyson spoke of health as empowerment during that talk. “I think that part of our work, ultimately, is in the empowerment of the people paying us for the thing that we do — but done in a way that the incentives are aligned for the right behaviors and outcomes,” he said in 2018.

Tyson was realistic about barriers to care and he sought to remove them. “We will not really see … the total transformation of health care until we’ve redesigned the economics of health care,” he said. During the same Spotlight Health conversation, Tyson stressed the difference between “access to coverage” and “access to care” — where many Americans struggle to obtain basic health coverage only to find that adequate care is out of reach when it’s most needed.

“Bernard Tyson was a giant in the health care industry,” said Ruth Katz, Aspen Institute Vice President and Executive Director of the Health, Medicine and Society Program. “He was an ‘original’ in every sense of the word – an innovator, a builder, and a thought leader who always put the people he served first. Bernard will be missed terribly.”

Bernard J. Tyson was an advocate and leader whose voice in health care will be missed.