Editor’s Note: The “V&V Q&A” is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Each issue will present an interview with an intriguing thinker or opinion-maker that we hope will prove illuminating to readers everywhere. It’s not often that our “V&V Q&A” manages to combine the Berlin Wall and American healthcare—both very much in the news this week—but this one achieves just that. In this latest Q&A, Dr. Paul Kengor, executive director of the Center, interviews Dr. George Schroeder, a physician working in America and a brand new American citizen who was born and raised not far from the Berlin Wall. Today, Dr. Schroeder fights the fight for freedom, including a free-market healthcare system in America. He is eager to share his unique experiences as a physician who has practiced throughout the world.
Dr. Paul Kengor: Dr. George Schroeder, welcome to “V&V Q&A.”
Dr. George Schroeder: Thank you, Dr. Kengor. I consider it an honor and privilege to share my views and opinions with your readers.
Kengor: First off, tell us a bit about your background.
Schroeder: I was born in a border town in West Germany, divided by the border of East and West, prior to German re-unification. Multilingual, I am versed in the socio-cultural norms, customs, and vast political differences across continents of Europe, South America, North America, and especially Canada.
Kengor: This past week, the world marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. What did that wall—and its fall—mean to you? How is this personal to you?
Schroeder: As eloquently expressed in a statesman-like, Thatcher-esque address to a joint session of Congress, German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered an unwavering admonition: “Freedom is precious, and attained only through great, almost insurmountable challenges, and must be fought for and maintained every day.”
What makes it personal to me, particularly now as a grateful, newly naturalized American citizen, is that I mourn the deaths of those who desired freedom with such passion and intensity that they gave their lives in the relentless and perilous pursuit of freedom. In coming to America, I hope to bring honor to the memory of their dream, their fervent quest and desire, which had been foiled by a totalitarian oppressive regime—one whose guns were pointed only inward, toward the east.
Kengor: Where did you go to school? What kind of medicine do you practice, and where?
Schroeder: Grammar school in Europe, high school partly in South America, and Canada. College and medical school in Canada, and a masters’ degree in healthcare management at the University of Texas. My areas of medical practice specialization are Urgent Care and Emergency Medicine. I’ve practiced in Canada and the United States. I also assisted my parents in building a rural-outreach, primary-care clinic and freestanding surgical suite in South America, which was equipped with instruments donated by philanthropic Americans serving a native population.
Kengor: What can you tell us about medical-care delivery in those countries, especially compared to the American system? Most important, tell us what’s happening in Germany right now with government healthcare.
Schroeder: The finest quality of medical care is delivered to patients in the United States.
Government involvement in healthcare has eroded choice, access, efficiency, and, thereby, quality. It has done so in direct proportion to government control of healthcare. The recent center-right coalition in Germany, which is emblematic of a repudiation of Marxist policies since the fall of the Iron Curtain, has led the new pro-business FDP (“Freedom Party”) to announce as its first policy initiative to roll back “The Public Option,” known as the “Gesundheitsfonds.”
My aunt Gretchen in Germany, who would have been 77 years old on November 9, died of cancer last year. She died near Heidelberg, Germany—one of the finest medical centers in that country. Knowing her cancer cell type and staging of her tumor, I am convinced she would be alive today if she had been treated for her curable tumor in America. So, that makes November 9 even more personally significant for me. If, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, Germany had a free-market medical system of innovative excellence, like we have in America, instead of a system devised by a red-green, left-wing, socialist coalition which bred mediocrity, my aunt would have received the doses and type of chemotherapy and radiation she needed.
Europe has painstakingly learned the folly and detrimental effects of socialized government control of healthcare.
Kengor: Now, today, you practice in America. What lessons have you gleaned from other systems that apply to the current debate in America over healthcare?
Schroeder: I have practiced medicine for over 25 years. Ten of those years, I have practiced in Canada, for which I was never sued, even once, because of a different paradigm (no contingency fees for attorneys) as well as a less litigious culture.
Over my 15 years in four states in America, I was named as a co-defendant in suits, and released along with other co-defendants in the uniquely American tort system, and never named into the dreaded physician National Data Bank listing egregious errors and mistakes by physicians and hospitals in America.
Defensive medicine in America causes significant and unnecessary cost escalation. Imposing a socialized government-run system without meaningful tort reform will lead to an irrefutable fiscal calamity. The U.S. system consists of what I descriptively term “Medico-legal disease-care.”
Kengor: How many people in America are genuinely uninsured or somehow not covered? Do those people get medical care?
Schroeder: The true number of uninsured citizens and legal residents of America is fewer than 10 million. The infamous, totally misleading and deliberately inflated number of 46 to 47 million uninsured “Americans”—widely disseminated by mainstream media—does not reflect the fact that approximately one third of those people are undocumented illegal immigrants. And those illegal immigrants are never denied actual medical care. They receive care based on the EMTALA [Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act], which mandates hospital emergency departments to treat “everyone” regardless of coverage. In some cases, this has actually led to deaths of insured Americans diverted in ambulances from crowded emergency departments to other hospitals, and essentially denied timely care for their heart attack or acute coronary event. This has also led to bankruptcy and closure of entire hospitals, particularly along southern border states.
Kengor: Aside from what should be done to “fix” America’s healthcare system, tell us what, in your view, should not be done.
Schroeder: It would be a travesty to have government-funded abortions—abhorrent to even moderate “Blue Dog” Democrats.
Kengor: We hear the words “nationalization” and “socialization.” Are we facing a potential nationalization or socialization of our healthcare system? Could the so-called “public option,” which you call a “misnomer,” be the camel’s nose in the tent, or the slippery slope that takes the nation toward nationalization or socialization? And might that be the real intention of those pushing this benign-sounding “public option?”
Schroeder: This is clearly the case, and it is a rudimentary principle in business as well as any sport in the world, that the entity making the rules and regulations cannot also becompeting fairly with competitors delivering a service. In a truly free market, the government cannot function as a team or a player in a game for which it is also the indisputable “referee.”
Consider our current economic situation, which adversely impacts small business in particular. Small business is an essential provider of life-sustaining employment and thereby healthcare coverage. If America implements the “public option,” many companies will drop their employees’ healthcare coverage, leaving them no choice, i.e., no “option,” but to ultimately accept the proposed government-run healthcare coverage—a public healthcare “coverage,” or as it is known in England, “The National Health Service” (N.H.S.)—available to all legal residents and citizens and funded by taxpayers.
Socialism, some Canadian and British expatriates have termed, is “more addictive than heroine.” It is very difficult to roll back once implemented.
Kengor: You say that you’re concerned about a “loss of freedom” in America today, and especially via this current push toward some form of unprecedented, heightened government management of healthcare. Explain that.
Schroeder: Well, consider this question as an illustration: If the government were to take over the privately competing, efficient, dependable, and predictably reliable mail-courier services, such as FedEx or UPS or DHL, and the American people were only allowed to send mail and important documents via the U.S. Postal Service, how would that affect the important and essential delivery of mail and important documents’ Loss of individual choice equals loss of freedom.
By attempting to ensure what they refer to as “coverage” for all Americans, what is being concealed in media sound-bites is a basic fact: When you add millions of people to insurance rolls (particularly if they end up being government run), and without adding a significant number of additional providers (more doctors and nurses), rationing of care is inevitable. What good is the government-issued insurance card that all Canadians carry in their wallets if Canadians are placed on a waiting list for life-saving surgery? Then it is not really “coverage,” is it? It sounds good, but you’re not really “covered” if your access is delayed. Some 800,000 Canadians on long waiting lists have come to the United States for life-saving treatments, and almost one out of every five Canadians do not have and cannot find a family doctor in their government-run, socialized healthcare system.
Kengor: To borrow from the Berlin Wall metaphor, do you see the current changes advocated in Washington, by President Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Democratic Congress, as tantamount to the erection of a kind of barrier to healthcare access’
Schroeder: A government takeover of this system—which would inevitably ensue from crowding out decreasingly competitive private companies by preventing them from lowering costs—would lead to unavoidable rationing. Healthcare delayed equals healthcare denied, particularly if you die while on a waiting list.
I’m intrigued by self-declared “experts” in “healthcare” who denigrate the American system as “inferior to Costa Rica and Slovenia,” as arbitrarily measured by their cronies at the United Nations. I wonder, do those same “experts” want to send Americans dying on waiting lists to Costa Rica and Slovenia for their life-saving medical care?
Kengor: How do Americans halt that wall before it’s built?
Schroeder: By engaging their energies in electing term-limited citizen-legislators to all three branches of government, such as my hero, Dr. Tom Coburn. Coburn, a distinguished U.S. senator, over two years ago provided America with his detailed universal healthcare plan (S. 1019), and, most recently, produced another plan in a collaborative and generous fashion (Senate Bill S. 1099, The Patient Care Choice Act). I highly recommend reading Dr. Coburn’s Book, “Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders.”
Americans must make daily phone calls to Capitol Hill as well as local and regional district offices of their elected representatives to ensure that their “freedom to choose”—patient “choice,” the operative part of the title of Dr. Coburn’s bill—is preserved.
Kengor: When did you become an American citizen, George?
Schroeder: In July of this year.
Kengor: Well, you truly understand the essence of American freedom—better than many of the natives. Dr. George Schroeder, thank you for talking to “V&V Q&A.”
Schroeder: Thank you for this honor and privilege, Dr. Kengor, and may God bless America!