The mixed-up terminology and imprecise language will certainly confuse people. But perhaps there’s a larger purpose that the press should keep in mind as it explains what’s happening. This imprecision will allow liberals and moderate senators to run for cover and spin the deal to their best advantage. Liberals could still spin the arrangement as a “government health plan” and save face. It doesn’t matter that the emperor has no clothes. Moderates could say the government is not the payer and that there would be more competition and more choices for the uninsured. Choice, maybe. Competition, unclear.

As this new animal gallops into the realm of possibility, we urge the press to choose its words carefully—before this race comes all the way down to the wire.

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.