Mayor Jonathan Rothschild implored residents who qualify to check out the new health exchanges sooner rather than later during a Tuesday morning press conference.

“You can’t wait until you’re sick to sign up, just like you can’t wait until you have an accident to sign up for car insurance,” Rothschild said.

With an estimated 120,000 people in Pima County eligible to participate in the health exchanges, Rothschild said, now’s the time to spread the word so those folks register before the March 31, 2014 open enrollment deadline.

While residents are encouraged to view their options online at, it might not be the best route for everyone. So free help is available throughout the city to anyone who needs their questions answered.

“We now have certified navigators and patient assistance who can help people to sign up for health insurance through the new Affordable Care Act,” said Jane Bakos executive director for St. Elizabeth’s Health Center. “You may be able to do it on your own or it may just generate more questions from you or you may need some additional help. And that’s what the navigators and assistants are there to do.”

If you require assistance, the following organizations can help:

•El Rio Community Health Center, 3480 East Britannia Drive

• Pima County Health Department, 3950 South Country Club

•St. Elizabeth’s Health Center, 140 West Speedway

•Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 823 East Speedway

•Tucson Urban League, 2305 South Park Avenue

•United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, 330 North Commerce Park Loop

Local officials also cautioned that with any new program, scams are certain to follow.

One way to sniff out charlatans is if they approach you with an offer from a health exchange.

“The government is not going to call you out-of-the-blue to set up your insurance (plan),” said Amelia Cramer, an attorney with the Pima County Attorney’s Office.

Cramer said a person should never give an unknown solicitor their social security number or personal health information.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of a scam, Cramer said you should report it immediately to your local police department, the Federal Trade Commission at or call the Health Insurance Marketplace Center at 800-318-2596.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or Follow on twitter @DarrenDaRonco