Washington Shuffle: John Rother And Ralph Neas

Updated at 10:30 a.m.

John Rother, who around Washington is considered the heart of the seniors group AARP, is moving on. After 27 years there, Rother, who has been a key advocacy strategist at AARP, will become president and CEO of the National Coalition for Health Care.

John Rother has worked at AARP since 1984 (Photo by AARP)

Ironically, he’s changing jobs just months before he will qualify for Medicare. Rother is 64.

“I’m very excited,” Rother told KHN.  “People assumed I would be at AARP forever.”  Asked if he had any disagreement with AARP that led to his departure, he answered, “They wanted me to stay,”

He said the new job is a chance to work on the issue of rising health costs. “It’s a chance to be a CEO and run my own organization and that’s something I could not resist,” he said.

Rother will replace Ralph Neas at NCHC, who will become president and CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.  Rother will begin in his new role next week.

NCHC, which has been around since 1990, is a broad, nonprofit coalition seeking comprehensive health system change that lowers costs and improves quality. It includes businesses, unions, health care providers, insurers and consumers.

Ralph Neas has been CEO of NCHC since Feb. 2009 (Photo by NCHC)

In his new role, Rother said one of his goals is to make sure Congress does not shift costs from Medicare to the private sector — something that would happen if the Medicare eligibility gets raised from 65 to 67. He said that doesn’t lower costs, but instead shifts costs.

The groups will continue to have connections. AARP is a member of the coalition, and an AARP official sits on the board of NCHC. In addition, Neas says he hopes to continue working with NCHC as well.

According to a NCHC press release, Neas has been CEO since 2009. Previously, he led People for the American Way and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He worked in the 1970s for former GOP Sens. Edward W. Brooke, R-Mass., and David Durenberger, R-Minn.

Rother will also continue as a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

Phil Galewitz contributed to this report.