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BEST BET

September 12, 1993|M.H.

When I heard my little Alicia gasping in the middle of the night and put my hand on her forehead and felt the fever, I thought of many things.

I thought of President Clinton's health plan, which promises to protect every family in America. It may yet do so. I pray it will.

I thought of the people arguing about the plan. Some women, I know, but mostly men. Men with suits and ties and gray hair and wise-looking faces--but are they really wise? Doctors and congressmen and news people, arguing over the details. People who have all the time in the world, who do not have to worry about their health insurance. And I knew that the plan, even if it comes, no matter how wonderful it is, would come too late to save my daughter.

I thought of my husband, Roberto, who works at a metal-plating plant. He comes home tired and dirty and smelling of evil fumes. Sometimes men are burned by the hot metals or the chemicals. It is dangerous work. Yet he earns the minimum wage and has no health insurance. What would happen to him--to us--if he got hurt?

We are not rich. Nor are we on welfare. I work, too--cleaning ladies' houses, when I can find someone to care for Alicia. I have no health insurance either. We in the middle are not protected.

Roberto talks to the other workers about forming a union. They are afraid, he says. Too many other men are ready to take their jobs. And worse than that, he says: Workers have come to think like their bosses. They believe they should be grateful for any kind of job.

Sometimes on TV I see the men who speak for the bosses. They, too, have suits and ties and wise-looking faces. They speak in soft voices, like professors, about the hard times and the need for companies to be competitive. They say we would be greedy to ask for more.

Those men did not look into Alicia's eyes, as I did that night, with the nearest county hospital far away and Roberto's union still only a dream. They could not look into her eyes and say such things. They would choke.

I felt so helpless. So angry.

Fortunately, a friend told me about the Los Angeles Free Clinic. We took Alicia there, and the good doctors who donate their services cured her.

Now the clinic is having a fund-raiser, "Fantastica '93," beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave. There will be dinner by Mario's Cooking for Friends, a performance by "camp cabaret" diva Jenifer Lewis and live and silent auctions. Tickets are $50. Reservations: (213) 653-0440.

Auction items include a seven-day Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise aboard the Radisson Diamond, a week at the Golden Door, basketballs autographed by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, dinner for eight prepared in your home by chef Greg Alario and a day on the set of "Seinfeld."

I cannot afford to go, but I will send what I can.

My friend is cynical. She says: "This is just an excuse for rich people to have a party." But I disagree.

These people have cared, when others who have just as much money did not, and kept the Free Clinic going while we wait for a better system.

To them I am grateful.

Alicia too.

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