How did the Obama administration allow HealthCare.gov launch when it was so obviously broken? Wasn't there a test-run for senior White House officials to see what the final product looked like?
The answer, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, is yes, except that the product demo White House officials saw over the summer wasn't actually a working product. It was a mock-up of the front-end interface with no functional back-end behind it.
When CMS presented HealthCare.gov to White House officials over the summer, they displayed a demonstration version of the website composed of screen-shots of the real exchange and overlaid with interactive features.
That version re-created the user interface, but didn't include the underlying mechanics—such as identity verification and eligibility determinations—that have foiled the site's launch. Displaying such versions for demonstration purposes is common in the computer industry. But it left senior officials unaware of the more complicated and ultimately troubled workings of the exchange.
These sorts of mock-ups are common enough in the software industry. What's not common is mistaking them for a working product. It's the equivalent of an auto executive being shown a new car design without a working engine inside.