BEND, Ore. -

These days, Gregory Ereman of Bend enjoys  simple things, like going on walks and reading the paper.

He can't believe how much his life has changed in just a year.

"This is a matter of life and death. A year ago I was afraid," Ereman said Monday. "(I had problems with) teeth, skin cancer -- my eye mysteriously stopped working."

There health aliments that would put anyone under stress. But Ereman had dealt with those those problem for years -- no, the change this year was much bigger.

"All of a sudden, they told me, 'Come in, sign up, you get medication, get your tooth fixed.'  I feel cared for."

He's one of more than 230,000  low-income Oregonians who now qualify for the Oregon Health Plan under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

"It was very difficult for adults, especially single adults to get OHP in the past," said Mosaic Medical spokeswoman Elaine Knobbs.

Ereman said it was an injury that ended his career as an electrician several years ago. From there, he said, it all went downhill fast -- a lost job, no insurance, piling medical problems and bills. He said he ended up homeless.

He said he spent five years on a waiting list for the state's Medicaid program.

"The only other resort was to go the emergency room," Ereman said.

A tough  predicament for patients, and also nonprofit clinics that can only provide the most basic services.

"(The doctors), they can see that road to health and wellness, and to not have that patient have insurance to be able to go to physical therapy or go to the dentist is very frustrating," Knobbs said.

Now, Ereman is going to physical therapy, and  he just recently had a dental appointment.

He said he feels better, has peace of mind and new-found dignity.

"I'm valued as a human. They care about me now," Ereman said.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority told NewsChannel 21 recently that so far this year, more than double the number of people expected signed up for OHP.

A spokeswoman said more patients and few dollars and doctors means the system is strained. However, she said the state is making it work by becoming more efficient.