Parents Changing The World: Les Rogers and the 1915 K Plan Waiver

I am often complimented by people outside of the pediatric neurology world for what is perceived to be my “rare” dedication and commitment to advocacy, and my ability to combine the personal and professional for the greater good.  My response is always, “If you think I’m cool, you should meet my friends!”  I have met hundreds of brilliant activist-parents along the way, parents who blow my accomplishments out of the water, parents who inspire and educate me every day.  I am fortunate to have many of these parents as part of my group, Neurology Parent Professionals.  This section of the blog will be dedicated to featuring those parents’ favorite projects, in their own words.

I would like you to meet Les Rogers.  Les is a man of many talents, including a professional educator, a public policy expert, and an exceptional father.   I met Les in the infantile spasms parent support groups.  Les is always able to provide terrific advice, especially when it comes to health care financing.  He often mentions something called the “K Plan.”  One day, I asked Les to tell me more.  I was so impressed with his work in Oregon that I immediately knew that he needed to tell YOU more, too.  A special thank you to Les for sharing with us!

Without further ado, I am honored to share his story and expertise with you, in his own words:

The 1915 K Plan Waiver in Oregon:  The Best Thing to Happen to Disability Services in a Long Time

Truly Providing the Supports Families of Special Needs Children Require to Thrive

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”-Ghandi

April 2017

By: Leslie Rogers

What are Medicaid Waivers and What is the 1915 K Waiver/K Plan in Oregon?

Medicaid waivers are programs that provide supports and services needed to people that would otherwise be in an institution, nursing home, or hospital to receive long-term care in the community (The History of Waivers). The 1915 K waiver is known as the Community First Choice Options, with the goal of keeping people in their community and not in an institutional setting. Serving people in the community is by far the least expensive option and why this program was created. Prior to 1991 the Federal Government only paid for services if a person was in an institution ( The K Plan was born of the need to fulfill broken promises to the disability community over many years. In Oregon, Institutions were shut down without sufficient diversion of funds to Home and Community Based Services to meet the needs of individuals attempting to reintegrate into society (Erasing Fairviews Horrors). This led to a system that could only provide for families in crisis in Oregon, which was cruel and did not support families until nearly all hope was lost.

I will focus on how Oregon implemented the K Plan since that is my experience. The overall system of Medicaid waivers operates under rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The system in Oregon is a Community based system with a significant preference for less expensive supported in home living and a  collection of group homes, foster placements, and some emergency placement facility options. This system also serves all ages that experience a qualifying level of need. In fact far more adults are on the K plan in Oregon than children, which is often forgotten in much of the literature that focuses on children on the 1915 K waiver.

What Services Are Provided?

The K plan in Oregon is a unique approach to providing services to families with special needs loved ones (Oregon K Plan Brochure).

Key Features of the Oregon System:

The anecdotal evidence is that the Oregon system has been much more expansive with its definition of what constitutes an institutional level of care. This has led to nearly every family that needs services getting qualified for services as opposed to the prior system of only serving those families in abject crises.

Key Features:

  1. NO WAITLISTS by LAW: if you qualify you receive services. The state does have 90 days to evaluate the application, and there are Medicaid appeal rights etc.
  2. Up to $5,000 worth of funding to provide things private insurance and Medicaid decline. Such as environmental modifications including lifts, changes for wheelchair accessibility etc.
  3. No parental means testing: understanding that often the parents of special needs children are driven to bankruptcy at a far higher rate
  4. Presumptive Medical: presumptive medical provides Medicaid as a tertiary payee (last in line payee) for those families of children with significant medical need. Keeps families from going through the cyclical bankruptcy cycle, and ending up on Medicaid anyway.

Services Provided:

  1. Personal Service Worker Hours: These are hours of caregiver support designed to help individuals be included in the community
  2. 24 Hour Respite days
  3. Children’s In Home Intensive Services for children with significant medical and/or behavioral problems
  4. Training for families and caregivers such as delegations of medical tasks etc.
  5. Behavior Therapists, and Applied Behavioral Analysis
  6. Service Coordination
  7. Case Management
  8. Family to Family Networks

What States Have the K Plan?

Federal Community First Choice K Plan

Five states have the K plan implemented in the United States:

  1. California
  2. Maryland
  3. Montana
  4. Oregon
  5. Texas

These five states account for nearly a quarter of the United States population among them. Every state’s implementation of the K plan has been a little different. I hope that parents from some of the other states that have implemented the K plan will read this article and write about their own experiences, and how the K plan has worked in their state.

The Rogers Family’s Experience with the K Plan

 Our family was driven to the edge of bankruptcy following my child’s diagnosis of West Syndrome and nearly half year stay in a children’s hospital. The medical bills were piled a mile high. Not the least of which was caused by a drug company raising the price of her seizure drug from $40 a vial to $33,500 a vial, but that is a story for another time (Mallinckrodt Fine FTC Article). We were exceeding 1,000 explanations of benefits a year from our two insurance companies. It was a tsunami of work coordinating benefits and getting bills paid on top of caring for our child that many people face. It is the double tragedy of significant medical illness in our society first the medical tragedy, then the inevitable fights with insurance, and ultimately the bankruptcy cycle for many families (Sharpe and Baker, 2007). Following our release from the hospital after we finally got seizure cessation from West syndrome, our child had regressed to a newborn. Gloria is tube fed, suction dependent 24/7, and requires intense one-on-one care all day every day. We filed for Disability Services in our state, which is operated through the K plan. A case manager came and did an evaluation, and a few months later we received the results (they have 90 days to respond). Gloria’s level of need was bordering on 24 hour nursing care. She missed the Children’s Intensive In Home Services (CIIS) level of care by just a few points, We were awarded around 300 hours of care, presumptive medical, and began working on the environmental modifications needed to make our house wheelchair accessible. The presumptive medical helped us avoid bankruptcy. The Personal Service Worker hours of care have helped us keep Gloria supported in our home, and allowed us to provide night nursing so that my wife and I can continue to work and provide for all of Gloria’s uncovered needs that exceed what the K plan provides for. In short we were able to keep our family whole, keep our marriage, reduce the stressors and pressures, and continue to work and contribute to society.

We were saved when we received the K Plan, and we were able to keep Gloria in our home around December 2015. We scoured our area for a nurse looking for a night shift while we were waiting for the state to make a decision about Gloria’s enrollment and number of hours, and thankfully we found one and had her fill out the enrollment information to become a Personal Service Worker through the K Plan (this process has taken some of our workers two months). Thankfully we were all set and ready when the K Plan began, and we had enough hours to provide nursing for Gloria at night. This allowed us to continue to work, and begin to pay off the mountain of medical debts we had, and I could work providing money to cover Gloria’s medical equipment that was not covered. We also thankfully qualified for presumptive medical (which makes Medicaid a last payer up to our max out of pocket), which basically keeps parents of severely disabled children from going bankrupt, and losing everything over and over again (which has been my experience being around the disabled community my whole life). The K Plan saved my family and saved the state hundreds of thousands of dollars by keeping Gloria with her family at home and out of Skilled Nursing Facilities. That is the purpose of the K Plan.

How Do I Get the K Plan in My State?

My dream is that all families are supported like those in Oregon. We have a golden opportunity to advocate at the state and national level for the expansion nationwide of the K plan as a basis for the standards of support for families facing the challenges of caring for children and adults with special needs. Growing up with two adopted special needs siblings, and now caring for my daughter with Cerebral Palsy I know at a visceral level what life before the K plan was like for many families, and how so many families floundered and imploded without the supports that are needed to keep a family whole. Many children ended up in foster systems that could not find a placement for them, and languished in Institutions like Fairview in Oregon. With the K plan in Oregon those with special needs are being given an opportunity like never seen before in the United States. There is a chance for true community inclusion. I have presented to organizations like Rare Disease Legislative Advocates about the K plan to help garner national awareness of the transformative nature of K plan services in Oregon (RDLA K Plan Presentation-please utilize this resource to help advocate for the K Plan in your state). With your advocacy support coupled with organizations like the National Organization of Rare Disorders, and Rare Disease Legislative advocates we can strive to improve the standard of support for those needing services to be able to live full lives in their communities.


  1. 1915 K Waiver CMS Website
  2. Oregon Types of Services Provided that are Funded through the K Plan
  3. Oregon K Plan Frequently Asked Questions
  4. The History of Medicaid Waivers in the United States



Genetic Testing, Precision Medicine, and Research: Advice From Veteran Caregivers

I received this note from Charlie’s genetic counselor just last week.

“Hi Danielle,

Results did just come back, and there was no definitive diagnosis- a copy of the report is attached for your records.  Therefore, we will move forward with getting Charlie’s information enrolled in EGI.  There was one variant identified in a gene called MTOR- changes in this gene have been identified in some children with autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, and differences in brain formation, however these are typically de novo (only in the child), whereas Charlie’s variant was inherited from his father.  This makes it much less likely that this is the cause of Charlie’s differences.”

And with that, the mystery of why my Charlie had infantile spasms, a rare and devastating form of pediatric-onset epilepsy, deepened.

How did I feel at that moment?

Heartbroken: I knew in my head that the odds of getting an answer were slim, but my heart hoped we would find out anyway.

Discouraged: I put a lot of work into getting this test approved by insurance and scheduled, only to have my hopes dashed.

Relieved: At least they didn’t find anything, well, more awful than I already know he has.

Angry: I am so, so, so sick of all of this. Sick, sick, sick, sick of epilepsy.

Self-pity: Why is this happening to me and my child? Why can’t we get SOMETHING to go right for us?

Denial: is it possible they just don’t know everything? Could they be wrong? Could it be this MTOR, or perhaps, GABRG2, the mutation that they found on the last test that he inherited from me? How could it NOT be inherited, since my uncle died in childhood from epilepsy?

Curious: Why is Charlie like this? Is it genetic? There must be an answer.

HOPEFUL: thanks to the Epilepsy Genetics Initiative , Global Genetic Variants Registry, and other research opportunities happening for kids with epilepsy right now.

When we first embarked on our journey with infantile spasms, I turned to online caregiver support groups for advice. The known causes of infantile spasms are numerous and range from genetic mutations to stroke to brain malformation. Some parents know the cause at the time of diagnosis, but many of us do not. Every parent’s first question is, “Why?” What did I do to cause my child to be so sick? Is it something I did when I was pregnant? Some environmental exposure or medication that I took? Could it be the glass of wine I had before I found out that I was pregnant, or all the diet soda that I drank?”

We are almost relieved to find out that very often, a completely random and unpreventable genetic mutation is the culprit, but then we start to worry about what genetic testing might discover. “If I have other children, will I pass it on to them? Does the genetic mutation cause problems in other organs? How long do children with this mutation usually live?“

Again and again, the subject of genetic testing came up in the discussion forums, but I didn’t understand any of it. Up to that point, I had limited academic coursework in genetics required of my Master’s in Public Health program. Indeed, many of the current hot topics in genetics were in their infancy fifteen years ago when I started graduate school. In my professional life as a clinical research data analyst, I often work on research projects involving patients with rare diseases that have genetic causes, but always AFTER their mutations were identified, not before.

I knew nothing about genetics or mystery diseases. I was just like many of you reading this right now.

My fellow “cryptogenic” (mystery cause) parents repeatedly discussed the different genetic “panels” to request from our neurologist. At that time, there was one that looked at 53 genes commonly linked to infantile spasms. Since those days more than six years ago, the “epilepsy gene panel” has expanded. Back then, most of the parents I know who received positive results from genetic testing then went on to one of a few wonderful, large patient support communities. A terrific group that comes to mind is the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance (for people with TSC1 or TSC2 mutations).

These smaller, narrow panels leave many of us with no idea why our child is having seizures, and therefore, what other medical conditions they are at risk to develop, which medicines to avoid, and no support group to help us care for our children throughout their lifespan.

Take heart.

There is hope.

The whole exome looks at a lot more than the smaller epilepsy panels.  However, when scientists analyze your child’s whole exome, they are looking for KNOWN mutations. New mutations are constantly being discovered and added to the list that they check for during testing. Mutations become known when people with epilepsy get their whole exome analyzed and sent to researchers who can dig deeper and identify new mutations.

That’s why it’s really, really important for all of us “unknowns” to get our kids’ whole exomes into the big genetic data pipeline, so scientists can have more people to look at, compare, and discover what’s wrong with our kids.

Some other caregivers, and even people in my own life, have asked me, “Why do you want to know? Isn’t it best to leave well enough alone? He’s already experienced years of brain damage from thousands of seizures, and has lost a big part of his brain to brain surgery. Knowing his mutation won’t change Charlie’s outcome, so why put yourself through this pain?”

Here are my own personal reasons for pursuing a genetic cause for Charlie’s epilepsy:

Precision medicine: knowing the exact mutation(s) can lead to targeted therapies for Charlie, therapies that could significantly improve his health, quality of life, and development. It is inaccurate to state that knowing his mutation now, after years of brain-damaging seizures and two brain surgeries, will not change his outcome. We just don’t know what a targeted therapy might do for Charlie.

Currently, most epilepsy treatment protocols for mystery kids like Charlie involve throwing medication after medication at them, in random order or at the preference of the physician, and hoping something works. In fact, most parents are told early on that if three medications are tried and fail, the odds of any pharmaceutical working at that point are slim. Something that works for one kid doesn’t work for the other, and nobody knows why, because we don’t understand the underlying issue that made our kids sick in the first place. It’s like not knowing that there’s a connection between glucose and diabetes. How would they ever have come up with insulin as a treatment without that basic understanding of the functions of the body that regulate glucose? It’s pretty much a crap shoot, and it’s always hard to say which med is helping or hurting, especially when the child is on two, three, four, or even more anti-epileptic treatments at a time. All of the medications have side effects, some worse than others, and the medications themselves can trigger seizures when they are withdrawn.

Knowing a mutation would allow scientists to target the specific problem, kid by kid, so that we can avoid trial-and-error crap shoot mystery diagnosis epilepsy care. This is madness, and we, as parents, have the power to make a HUGE contribution to the solution by participating in genetic studies like the Epilepsy Genetics Initiative.

Research: knowing his mutation(s) puts Charlie first in line for any study of those mutation(s), including clinical trials of new drugs that could lead to a targeted therapy for him. I don’t want a study to pass us by because, as a mystery kid, we don’t meet the inclusion criteria of a specific mutation.  For example, as soon as I find out his mutation, I can enroll in the Global Genetic Variants Registry, and receive notification whenever we are eligible to participate in a study.

Support: If there are other kids out their like Charlie, with the same combination of symptoms, I want to meet them. Maybe it won’t be until our kids’ data are roommates in the same research database that it is discovered that there is more than one Charlie out there.

Imagine if your kid had diabetes, but you didn’t know it was called diabetes. How would you meet other parents online who also had kids with the same symptoms, if you couldn’t Google ‘diabetes?’ The diagnosis makes all the difference in finding support. This is especially true for those kids who were never diagnosed with a syndrome or condition like infantile spasms (IS) or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS). While the associated organizations do not represent specific genetic causes, there is strong support in the general IS and LGS communities that is not available to mystery kids without these diagnoses.

Access to services: Understanding and documenting the severity of his mutation(s) will help me to justify therapy and education services.

Medication safety: knowing his mutation(s) would also tell us which medications he SHOULD NOT HAVE, as some medications can make seizures worse in kids with certain mutations.

Overall health: Certain mutations that cause epilepsy also cause problems in the eyes, heart, kidneys, and/or skeletal systems, just to name a few. These problems might not become clinically apparent until long after the epilepsy presents itself. Knowing Charlie’s mutation(s) can help me to be proactive and start relationships with specialists who can follow Charlie and prevent complications that may arise.

Another “bonus” that often comes with genetic testing for epilepsy is the opportunity to learn about additional genetic mutations that you or your child might have that could cause diseases.  For example, sometimes the tests will also reveal if you have the most common mutations that are implicated in breast cancer.

Family history: Knowing his mutation(s) allows me to make other family members aware, especially if this is an inherited condition. And if it’s not an inherited condition, this information will give us all a sense of relief.

Closure: because I’m his mother, and I deserve to know.

So how do we go about getting the whole exome done and sent to researchers? I will give it to you straight:  most of the time, the burden is on you, the caregiver, to initiate this process, and the system does not make it easy for us.  It is a battle worth fighting, for so many reasons.

You will almost certainly hit roadblocks early on, most likely with the insurance company. In addition, it might be difficult to schedule the tests, especially if both parents need to have blood drawn on the same day.  Sometimes, you can arrange in advance to have the tests scheduled with clinical blood draws at your next visit, but this can be a challenge to arrange, or when you get to the lab, they might not know what you are talking about, your husband’s name isn’t in the system so he has to wait for his blood draw, your kid is hungry, you still have to drive an hour to get home and pick up your other kid at school…I know, I know, believe me!

By the time you hit your first genetics testing obstacle,  you have put so much time and effort into it that you will feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and very sick of pushing for something that will not provide immediate seizure relief for your child.  You will want to throw in the towel and say to heck with the whole thing. You may feel like you don’t have it in you to fight for this on top of everything else. I hear you. I have been there. PLEASE don’t give up, for all the reasons I listed above. Luckily, you have me and many other experienced parents who are ready and able to help you through it.

The first step is to ask your child’s neurologist if a gene panel or whole exome testing is right for you.

I will be blunt. Insurance companies can be total jerks about covering genetic testing, and it can be cost prohibitive to pay for the whole thing out of pocket. Parents often complain to me that they feel “priced out“ of genetic testing. That is absolutely shameful. I hate to hear that. Have no fear, I have found some ways around insurance rejections.

After our first brain surgery but before our whole exome testing, our brilliant neurogenetics doctor wanted to see if Charlie had a certain mutation because the next drug on our list was contraindicated for that particular mutation. In other words, if he had the mutation, that drug could make his seizures a lot worse. The insurance company rejected our request for coverage of the test, citing that it wasn’t “medically necessary.”

That particular rejection really got to me.  I had lost all faith in humanity.

Fortunately, the doctor and dedicated genetic counselor at our hospital spent a lot of time and effort educating the health insurance company and, eventually, getting the decision overturned. If you get rejected, ask your genetics counselor to get involved and advocate for a reversal.

Something else parents need to know is that many genetic testing companies offer patient assistance programs to people whose insurance won’t cover genetic testing, usually limiting your out-of-pocket expense to $100 or less. Check with the company and your genetics department about this option if your genetic testing is rejected by insurance.  If you need some advice on this, send me an e-mail:

Once your genetic testing is completed, you should explore research studies. Usually, it’s just a matter of consenting to let your doctor or lab send the test results, medical history, and/or blood sample to the study team.  Start by asking your neurologist about studies. If your mutation has a support group or nonprofit organization associated with it, reach out to them. Look up any clinical trial through As I mentioned before, for epilepsy, I highly recommend the Epilepsy Genetics Initiative (EGI). Note that you don’t need to have a known mutation to participate. In fact, one of the goals of EGI is to make those discoveries!

For those of you with KNOWN mutations, you can join up with researchers around the world. Our friends at the Global Genetic Variants Registry have just launched their website here. The purpose of their site is to link families with genetic epilepsies with researchers, possibly on the other side of the world, to understand the genes of epilepsy and find new treatments.

Finally, I reached out to my own network, Neurology Parent Professionals, for advice for families who are facing the prospect — or aftermath — of genetic testing.  Here is some of their advice:

“Make an in-person appointment with a genetic counselor and make sure they explain the mutation in a way that you can understand.  Ask a few key questions at the appointment, such as:

  • Is this definitely a pathogenic mutation?
  • How does it affect or potentially affect the child? This way you get set up with the right specialists right away such as cardiologist, ophthalmologist, physical medicine, etc.
  • Is gene therapy an option for this specific mutation, either now or in the future?

Research away, education is power, learn as much as you can- read it even if it doesn’t make sense right now, it will eventually as you continue to learn. Google it often, as there’s constant updates in genetic research right now

I know everyone is in a different place in their journey and some may not be able to jump right into advocacy but as soon as you are ready, get involved!”


“Starting the process to access services if applicable is necessary to learn and initiate even though it is a stressful time. Every State has different case loads, waiting lists, evaluations etc.  Become proficient on the ins and outs of your insurance. Do you need referrals? What quality and quantity of services are provided by the plan? Does your State bill for services or do they bill your insurance? Know that pharma offers services to absorb medical costs. Last, try not to become overwhelmed. It’s a lot that has to be accomplished but just stay calm. It’s a marathon, not a sprint (most of the time but not always).”


“Just because they find other kids with that same mutation doesn’t mean they are “Apple to Apple.” They may have other mutations that play into it, a larger mutation, and other factors play in. So, just because you find like families you may not find like kids.”


I hope that you find this post useful as you navigate your own genetic testing odyssey. The goal of my blog is always to write posts that I wish were available to me when Charlie and I were just starting out. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me or comment below, with any questions or suggestions.

Helpful resources

How to Research Your Child’s Medical Condition Like A Pro

Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center: Support for Patients and Families

Epilepsy Genetics Initiative

YouTube Course:  Useful Genetics from University of British Columbia

Global Genetic Variants Registry

Rare Epilepsy Network  Look up clinical research studies in the US

How to create Google news alerts (put your mutation name or syndrome in and get an alert every time it is mentioned online)

NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program  This is a very educational website for people interested in learning more about precision medicine.