Bernard J. Tyson (Credit: Kaiser Permanente) Bernard Tyson (Credit: Kaiser Permanente)

Bernard Tyson, 60, the chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, and the 2018 chairman of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), died suddenly Sunday, in his sleep, according to Kaiser Permanente.

The cause of death was not immediately available.

Tyson suffered a heart attack and heart failure in 2006. He told Dr. Eric Topol, in an interview published by Medscape in 2016, that the experience had taught him the critical importance of the human touch in health care, and that his health care team was watching his health closely.

(Related: Kaiser CEO to Lead Health Insurer Group)

Kaiser Permanente said it was announcing Tyson’s death “with profound sadness.”

“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,” Kaiser Permanente said.

The Oakland, California-based carrier named Gregory Adams, executive vice president and group president, to be the interim chairman and CEO.

Kaiser Permanente is the biggest nonprofit health coverage provider in the United States, with 12.3 million in California, Colorado, Georgia, the Mid-Atlantic region, Oregon and Washington state. It also delivers health care services, through a network of 39 hospitals and 701 medical offices. The company generated about $80 billion in revenue in 2018.

The AHIP board issued a statement mourning the loss of the group’s former chairman.

“Bernard Tyson was a revered leader,” AHIP said in the statement. “We are devastated by his sudden passing. His passion for helping people . . . his strong desire to serve . . . his dedication every day to making people healthier and communities stronger . . . his towering eminence as a leader. He epitomized what we should all strive to deliver. To Bernard’s family, we want to express our deepest sympathies. To the Kaiser Permanente family he also loved so much, our hearts are heavy for your loss. Everyone across the entire health care sector will mourn and miss him.”

How He Got His Start

Bernard Tyson was born in 1959 in Vallejo, California. His father was a minister, and his mother was a homemaker who struggled with diabetes.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in health service management from Golden Gate University in 1982, and he earned a master’s degree in business from Golden Gate in 1984.

He began working as an administrative analyst at a hospital in his hometown while he was still in college, according to The HistoryMakers.

Tyson had a six-month internship at Kaiser Permanente while he was getting his master’s degree. His first permanent job at Kaiser Permanente was as director of the outpatient medical records department at a hospital in San Francisco.

He rose up through the ranks and ended up running a hospital in 1992.

He began working in management at Kaiser Permanente in 2002. He became president in 2010, then took over as chairman and CEO in July 2013.

Tyson and the Affordable Care Act

Under Tyson’s leadership, Kaiser Permanente worked with other carriers in California to support implementation of the Affordable Care Act in that state.

Tyson was also active in promoting AHIP efforts to support implementation of the ACA.

In September 2017, he testified at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the state of the individual major medical insurance market, around the time that the administration of President Donald Trump was suspending the payments made under a major ACA subsidy program, the cost-sharing reduction subsidy program.

Tyson asked members of Congress to help provide a more stable regulatory environment for individual major medical insurance.

“We own the success or the failure of the American health care system together,” Tyson testified. “It is not about the government or the marketplace. It is about both of us working together.”

Tyson asked lawmakers to restore full funding for ACA subsidy and marketing programs, and to consider repealing the ACA health insurer tax.

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