Since becoming CMS administrator in 2017, I participated in several events with Bernard J. Tyson. Our discussions—on the healthcare system’s problems and how to solve them—were reliably robust and lively. I always came away having learned something new.
What inevitably came through in conversation with him was his tireless dedication and vision for improving the health and well-being of all Americans. His wisdom, passion and selflessness has made an indelible mark that will not soon be forgotten.
Perhaps no one has done more to bring attention to the fundamental importance of non-medical social factors in determining patient outcomes. Coming as it did from a giant in the healthcare industry, his outspoken support of CMS’ increased focus on these “social determinants of health” in Medicare Advantage aided our efforts tremendously. His expansive conception of health as something encompassing far more than merely the functional mechanical workings of the body was one that the healthcare system needed to hear. He consistently conveyed that conception with grace and eloquence.
Bernard’s contributions as a thought leader were wide-ranging and impressive, but he never neglected to take the crucial next step of converting ideas into action: Bernard drastically improved care for those participating in Kaiser Permanente plans. Thanks to his leadership, Kaiser ranked among the best in terms of providing high-quality care to Medicare beneficiaries in 2019.
Bernard’s life—too short though it was—was one marked by service and ingenuity on behalf of the American patient. Our healthcare system and our nation are poorer for his untimely passing. Now, it falls to us to continue his legacy of building a healthcare system that works for all Americans.