This anonymous lawmaker suggested that Conrad could be persuaded to use a different set of projected savings if enough colleagues leaned on him. Maybe one of them will be Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, who explained that “Prevention is an actual savings. I’ve seen it in my own city and what we did there.” He urged the Democrats to push back against a CBO estimate that would show only a modest level of savings.

The integrity of health care reform is also at stake. The public deserves to know what’s fact and what’s fiction, and a good place for reporters to begin sorting all that out is by asking whether preventive care saves any money. Next, they need to keep an eye on the potential funny business that Bolton so carefully laid out.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.