Giving a voice to the thousands who protested outside President Donald Trump's Wednesday evening appearance in Nashville—and the millions more poised to lose their healthcare—Dr. Carol Paris, head of a national organization of physicians dedicated to promoting healthcare for all, directly confronted the president and demanded he do better by the American people.
Cutting off Trump's speech as he lauded his administration's efforts to roll-back crucial health and environmental regulations, Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), held up a sign that read "Improved Medicare-for-All" while chanting: "Put your name on a plan that works: Medicare-for-All!"
In an interview with Common Dreams, Paris explained that she wanted to offer the president a chance to put his name on legislation that he could be proud of, "not this piece of doo-doo [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tom Price are pitching"—referring to the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), which the Congressional Budget Office said would wipe out coverage for 24 million people by 2026.
Amid talks to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Paris said that the "time is right" to do so with something that will make healthcare accessible for all people, "not just the wealthy," as the AHCA is expected to do.
"People are dying," she said. "I'm a physician, I can't sit by and not speak up."
Paris explained how after Trump remarked last month that "nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated," she sent him a letter offering to meet with him about the simple single-payer solution. Receiving no response, Paris and other PNHP leaders penned an open letter explaining the benefits of such a plan. Again, no response.
"I have gone through the proper channels," Paris said, adding that her interruption was "just an attempt to be heard."
"I'm not doing this because it's fun," she continued. "I'm doing this because I want healthcare for everyone. Even people at the rally who booed me and probably think I'm crazy."
Indeed, Trump tried to brush off Paris' interruption Wednesday as just "one protester," saying: "One person and they will be the story tomorrow. Did you hear? There was a protester."
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But that was not the case. Outside, an estimated 2,500 people were also demonstrating against the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.
A coalition of organizations including Tennessee Citizen Action, Planned Parenthood, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), the local Indivisible group, and the Tennessee Justice Center held a march and rally outside the city's Municipal Auditorium to register their opposition.
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"Anyone who believed the GOP promises that people would still have health insurance under the Republican repeal plan now know that they were lied to; they are going to be left out in the cold," said LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People's Action.
Pointing to the $465 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest tax payers as well as drug and other health corporations, Nashville resident Kathy Maxwell added: "This is a big tax cut for drug corporations, insurance companies, and the rich, paid for by taking health care away from 24 million people. None of us voted for that."
"There isn't anywhere I go that I'm not hearing...Medicare-for-All, that's what I really need," she said. "I literally cannot go into a grocery story line without hearing it. People may not understand it completely at first but as soon as I do my elevator pitch, they want it."
Even Trump supporters have expressed support for such a plan. Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a televised town hall with conservatives in rural McDowell County, West Virginia, who shared the sentiment that "healthcare is a human right."