By now, Stephanopoulos was in fine form, and switched the conversation from the controversial to the super controversial—the public plan option. Once more, he pushed the secretary: “Doesn’t a public plan only make sense if it actually does pay lower rates than the private plans so that it’s lower in cost?” That’s a fair question that zooms in on the plan’s key element. But Sebelius wouldn’t bite, instead saying she didn’t think such a plan would have to pay lower rates. Was this a clue that the administration was not supporting a plan that did? Instead, she volunteered that “what you have to do is, maybe, cut some of those overhead costs and have innovative strategies.” Then she moved on to consumer choice—that uniquely American health-care concept that has been focus-grouped to death by Democratic pollsters. Like many others, the secretary conflated insurance coverage with health care in remarks that couldn’t help but confuse ABC’s audience:

”There’s one dominant company and that really doesn’t drive innovation; it doesn’t drive much in terms of quality care. We know that higher cost doesn’t translate into higher quality. And what we want to do is have the highest quality, lower cost care for all Americans.”

Wait a minute! I thought she was talking about a dominant company. In many places, that’s Blue Cross Blue Shield, an insurer that is a payer of care not a provider of care. Insurers don’t give care; doctors do. By higher costs, did she mean medical costs or insurance premiums? I’d wager she was talking about medical costs.

So what was the takeaway from all of this? The secretary of HHS was protecting her boss despite repeated hard-hitting questions; slippery politicians can still be slippery politicians; and the public is none the wiser about what the president is willing to push for. Dear reader, take note: the interview did not mention the proposal for an individual mandate that would require millions of uninsured Americans to buy private insurance. Maybe Stephanopoulos can work on that for next time. By then, perhaps the president and his emissaries will be in the mood to explain to the public why this is such a good idea.

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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.