CREATED Sep. 23, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. - With the start of Obamacare enrollment one week away, the debate over the issue is heating up in Southwest Florida. Today, protesters took to the streets of downtown Fort Myers outside democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's office to voice their desires to be exempt from Obamacare.
"There's so many businesses, congress, their staff, the list goes on and on of people that have been exempt from Obamacare," said organizer Cheryl Couture. "We want to be able to have our health care in our own hands."
Senator Nelson's office released a statement about the protests stating a lot of "misleading" and "inaccurate" information circulating about the new health care law, including the belief that congress has exempted itself from Obamacare.
"Members and their personal office staff are actually losing their existing employer group coverage, starting Jan. 1," said Senator Nelson's press secretary, Ryan Brown, in a statement. "They will be treated just like any other currently uninsured individual and, as such, they'll be required to obtain coverage through one of the state-based insurance exchanges, just like everybody else."
Edison College Political Science professor Laura Weir said politics are at the heart of all the Obamacare debates happening in Southwest Florida.
"We have a very conservative Republican state that is being run by a very conservative Republican governor who's going to be up for re-election," Weir said.
Weir said threats of a government shutdown are politically motivated. If a shutdown- which she calls the "nuclear option"- occurs on October 1st, funding could be slashed for a number of programs, which Weir said would get voters angry with Democrats about initiated Obamacare in the first place.
"There's a lot of politics around this," Weir said.
With Governor Rick Scott barring Obamacare navigators from county health centers, it's more difficult for people to get information about the new policies and options. Weir said it's ultimately hurting the people who need the information the most.
"The people that the costs are going to come to are the people who need the information and the access," Weir said.
For more information about the Affordable Health Care Act and enrollment, which begins Oct. 1st, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/