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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    May 17, 2019


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    A Different Perspective on Cuba


    In terms of “Cuba: A Perspective from Wisconsin” (Wisconsin Lawyer, April 2019), thanks to Mr. Forward for opening up this important place and rich culture with his review of the trip taken there recently by 40 Wisconsin lawyers. My wife and I were there in May 2016 for five days. At that time, travel restrictions were lifted by President Obama in the context of a thaw in relations. It was very simple to obtain a travel visa; you could get it at the gate at the airport from the airline.

    My assessment is somewhat harsher than Mr. Forward presented Cuba. I’m trying not to be polemical and the Cuban people are very pleasant, but Communism since 1959 has left Cuba in miserable shape for which the people have their leaders to thank. Havana is largely a slum. Your article says that the government does not control where tourists can go, which is true, but the tours and guides always drop people off in the small high-rent area of galleries and souvenir shops. That is, areas the government wants you to see.

    My wife and I walked the slums, which went on and on. As far as market reforms are concerned, there are no markets to reform at present. Cuba is devoid of private stores, shops, or outlets except in a narrow range of tourist attractions. Food is scarce and tastes lousy. Only 20-30 percent of the population have some form of internet access, which is strictly censored and spotty. Cell phone coverage is weak and spotty the further you go out from central Havana.

    Our five days there were more than enough for us to realize that the communist socialist dream is a nightmare. No one has money. There is nothing for the common person to buy even if they did have money. The old cars are charming. The island is quaint and sad.

    Scott R. Winkler
    Winkler Law Firm SC, Milwaukee

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    Can Mere Mortals Really Keep All Those Files?

    parking meter expired

    In “Storage: What to Do With All Those Closed Files” (Wisconsin Lawyer, March 2019), Tom Watson wrote that one topic keeps coming up at CLE programs where he speaks on risk management issues. That topic? File storage. More specifically, the questions were this: “What should I do with all those old files in my office, and how long should I keep them before it’s safe to toss them out?”

    Like most things in the law, Watson wrote, there’s no magic answer. The solution is not as simple as a one-size-fits-all rule for when to destroy closed files. File retention and destruction are more complex than that.

    A reader posted a comment:

    Reader: Keeping a file “indefinitely” is not a possibility for mortal lawyers. Just a reminder that if lawyers are storing files electronically, they also must keep (in working order) whatever electronics are necessary to read and retrieve the files. I hope no one stored on Beta tapes!

    Gretchen Viney
    U.W. Law School, Madison

    Revisiting Wisconsin’s Birth Cost Reimbursement Policy

    teddy bear in crib

    Medicaid: New Birth Cost Recovery Rules for Unmarried Parents” (Wisconsin Lawyer, March 2019) contains misleading information regarding Wisconsin’s birth cost reimbursement policy.

    Birth cost reimbursement orders apply to fathers with higher incomes as well as low-income fathers. Such orders can reimburse mothers who personally incur expenses related to the birth of their children, as well as reimbursing Medicaid when the state pays for the birth. Wisconsin’s limits (orders are capped at one-half the actual cost, and are limited to 5 percent of a father’s monthly income over 36 months) protect all fathers from unreasonable reimbursement orders while providing mothers and the state a vehicle to share reasonable costs with the other parent.

    Federal law supports Wisconsin’s birth cost reimbursement policy. In 2007 the federal government directed states to update birth cost policies to ensure that they were not placing an undue burden on low-income fathers. Unlike many states, Wisconsin took the steps necessary to align its birth cost policy with the new federal standards and received permission from the federal government to continue collecting partial reimbursement pursuant to those new steps. States that did not update their policies in compliance with federal rules could not continue to collect reimbursement.

    There is no objective evidence to support claims that birth cost reimbursement is linked to infant mortality, perpetuation of family poverty, family conflict, or delayed prenatal care. In fact, one study found that paternity establishment has a protective effect for children, particularly on infant mortality.1 The work of Wisconsin’s child support agencies to establish paternity for children born without a father’s name on the birth certificate provides the path for those fathers to have a greater level of involvement with their children, including the provision of social, economic, and emotional support.

    Birth cost reimbursement is based in well-established public policy that Medicaid is the payer of last resort. Like the child support program itself, birth cost reimbursement stems from the principle that children are the primary responsibility of their parents, not taxpayers. Wisconsin’s birth cost reimbursement policy is designed such that fathers, to the extent that they are able, share some responsibility for the birth of their children.

    1 Emmanuel M. Ngui et al., Relationship of Paternity Status, Welfare Reform Period and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Infant Mortality, 9. Am. J. Men’s Health 350, 356 (2015).

    Janet Nelson
    Chief Legal Counsel
    Milwaukee Department of Child Support Services

    Author response: Proponents of Medicaid birth cost recovery conflate the practice with the benefits of establishing paternity and traditional child support obligations. They ignore the fact that the vast majority of states successfully accomplish those objectives without imposing the counterproductive burdens of birth cost arrearages. Unlike child support, birth cost recovery deprives children of money that might otherwise be available to support their needs. It supports government, not children. Ultimately, we need to consider whether our collective values are fairly represented by a policy that takes from a child for the questionable aim of teaching the father some illusive lesson in responsibility.

    Richard A. Lavigne Jr.
    ABC for Health Inc., Madison

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