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Tori Rosales, 26, of Oakland poses for a photograph in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. Rosales a student at California State University, East Bay recently finds herself without health insurance, after no longer being eligible to be on her parents insurance plan because of age. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Money is tight for part-time college student Tori Rosales and her husband, who just graduated from UC Berkeley with an economics degree but hasn't found a job. To help save money, they live with his parents in Oakland.

Rosales, who works 16 hours a week in a doctor's office while attending Cal State East Bay, can't afford health insurance for herself or her husband, César, on her salary.

Before Obamacare, they might have had to do without. But the health care law allows states to expand Medicaid, a federal program for the poor and disabled, to adults with limited income.

In California, it's known as Medi-Cal, and Tori Rosales is signing up along with her spouse.

As of Jan. 1, as many as 2 million adults will be newly eligible for the program in California, which is among the 25 states increasing Medicaid access.

It may not offer as much as Kaiser, her parents' health plan that the 2010 health care law allowed her to stay on until she turned 26 this year. But, she said, "you can't be picky. It's better than no insurance."

Besides, both she and her husband eat healthy and stay fit.

"But I'm not fond of freeloading, and I'm not proud of being this poor as a student and having to rely on Medi-Cal," Rosales said. "I would pay for insurance if I had the option to do it."


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The couple is hoping to make enough money next year to qualify for a policy on the state's insurance exchange. And someday they hope to work for companies that will pay for most of their insurance. In any case, she knows she needs health coverage.

Last year, she got a scare after suffering a painful kidney stone. Even with her parents' insurance, the bill for the emergency room visit came to $15,000 -- and her share was $4,000.

"They force you to choose between death and your pocketbook, which is so ridiculous," Rosales said.

Luckily, a family friend paid the tab.