06/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Cauliflower for Colonoscopies: This Is Health Care Reform?

My throat's sore, my temperature is 101 and I have chills. I'm going out into the garden and pull up some carrots so I can see the doctor.

A couple of legislators who hate the health care reform bill have been saying that, hey, Americans don't need this law -- we have other ways of handling their health care costs. Like paying the bills with edibles.

Somebody must have read ''Jack and the Beanstalk'' once too often as a kid, hmmm? That's the only time I've ever heard of ''magic beans'' that could get you anything more than plant protein and gas.

What do you think my health insurance company would say if I offered to pay my deductible in avocados? Okay, what if I throw in tortilla chips too?

And what about that schedule of procedure costs that shows up on those "explanation of benefits" forms? They'd need rewriting:

Appendectomy: 100 bushels of hard red wheat, 50 pecks of Royal Anne cherries, a gross of eggs (brown or white).

One week's dialysis: six dozen homemade cinnamon rolls and a pound of fresh butter (unsalted).

Liver transplant: half a dozen dairy cows (guaranteed good milkers), and enough pasture for a year.

We can't leave out elective procedures. A face-lift should price out at at least a Fruit-of-the-Month Club membership, premium package, minimum one exotic fruit (guava, kiwi) included.

Would organic produce be more valuable? Could you get an ingrown toenail treated for either five pounds of organic local strawberries or ten pounds of conventionally grown Mexican strawberries?

Could the doctor refuse to give me my test results if the tomatoes I paid him with turned out to be rotten?

It's a nice cozy notion, and I'm sure it might have worked now and then for my great-grandparents on our farms, in an age when our intensely high-tech and high-cost care was undreamed-of by medicine, and when palliative care was the best that might be available for the critically ill or critically injured.

But try taking veg-med to the bank. Try getting a car loan on the strength of a steady income stream of root vegetables. Try sending an ER nurse to the teller window to pay her Visa bill with a dozen chickens and ten lugs of Elberta peaches. Try fitting a champion Carolina Cross watermelon through the drive-up window at the pharmacy.

The cold hard fact is that health care takes cold hard cash. Too much of it. Which is why we wind up with Mr. Potato Head notions like these -- which is to say, half-baked.

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