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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Business owner who complained to Scott about 'Obamacare' says he was misinformed

Photo(1)In what has become one of his go-to anecdotes in criticizing the health care law, Gov. Rick Scott tells the story of a small business owner was afraid the law would put him out of business. Scott shared this anecdote with Fox News, in a speech in downtown Tampa, and even to a gathering of Pasco County Republicans. In Pasco, Scott said he was stopping in for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen when he spoke to the restaurant owner.

Today, the Times/Herald caught up with Jamshaid "Dean" Mohyuddin, who owns the Dairy Queen on Tallahassee's North Monroe Street. He confirmed that the governor did come into his fast food restaurant recently and that he complained to Scott about the insurance requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (Pictured, left to right, are employees Maria Paz, Stanya Thompson, Mohyuddin and his son Humzah Mohyuddin.)

Mohyuddin had heard about the Affordable Care Act and its requirements that businesses provide health insurance to their workers, and it worried him. He told the governor that he can't afford to shoulder such costs. "What will this mean?" he remembers asking Scott.

"I'm a businessman myself, and I and I don’t even have health insurance," Mohyuddin said. "I can’t afford it.”

Scott encouraged him to link up with other business owners to support Mitt Romney's campaign for president, Mohyuddin remembers.

But what he didn't know at the time was that this provision of Obamacare doesn't affect him because he has fewer than 50 employees. He didn't know that he was exempt from providing insurance or paying related fines until he spoke to the Times/Herald.

"That helps me a lot," Mohyuddin said. "I always thought I had to do this."

Scott's office refused to confirm if the governor was talking about Mohyuddin when he shared those anecdotes. But Mohyuddin's recollection of their meeting seems to match the story Scott has been telling.

"They walked up to me and they said, 'Governor, is this really going to become the law? Because if it does, we're out of business,' " Scott told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren Friday. " 'We have 20 employees; we know we won't be able to buy any health care for anybody.' "

In Tampa, the governor said: "I think they had about 20 employees, and they said, 'Governor, will this bill become law?' And I said, ‘I hope not. And I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t.’ Because they said, 'We will have to close. We cannot afford the penalty for this.' But we’ll see what happens.”

Today, PolitiFact rated the governor's statements "pants on fire."

We asked the Scott's office why he would continue to tell this story if he knew that such a small business would not be affected by this part of the law. Brian Burgess, the governor's communications director, responded in a way that re-interprets the governor's anecdote.

"The actual business name or number of employees is irrelevant," Burgess wrote in an email. "The point the business owner was making is that ObamaCare creates a barrier to growth at 50 employees, and the Governor, like the business owner in the example, finds it alarming that ObamaCare will punish an employer for hiring more people.  Penalties like that prevent growth and makes it harder to stay in business."

We replied to Burgess' email and pointed out that the governor never mentioned that the business owner was concerned about his ability to grow, rather the focus was on the man's ability to afford his current employees. We'll let you know if/when we hear back.

UPDATE: Burgess emailed us back Tuesday morning. He is sticking to his story that Scott was talking about the inability of businesses to grow.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 9:58am]

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