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As Americans examine the out-of-control spending on health care, Bedlam exposes one of the costliest and most insidious medical scandals of recent times: the rapacious advance of the for-profit mental-health industry. By the end of the 1980s it had managed to lay claim to about 25 percent of all money spent by U.S. employers on employee health benefits.
During the 1980s, as the Recovery Era dictated broader insurance coverage for an ever-growing range of disorders, addictions, and behavioral problems, investor-owned psychiatric hospitals expanded at a dizzying rate. Using guerilla marketing, co-opting the psychiatric profession, and even hiring clergymen, guidance counselors, and other trusted community figures as bounty hunters, these psychiatric hospitals sought to bring in paying customers to a plethora of treatment programs. Most seemed to have one thing in common: Patients miraculously improved the day their insurance expired. Beyond the horror stories of patient kidnapping, fraud, and abuses of children and adolescents, Bedlam examines the unholy alliance between modern biopsychiatry and the hospital, pharmaceutical, and addiction industries. It is an alliance that has succeeded in establishing, as federal policy, the astonishing notion that in any given six-month period, more than 20 percent of Americans need professional psychiatric care - and should be covered for it with generous insurance benefits.
As new health-care reforms provide for expanded mental-health coverage - in a formula that reflects the lobbying goals of the psychiatric industry - Bedlam blows away the public-relations smoke screen and shows what happens when modern marketing strategies are applied to psychiatric care. This is a truly shocking and important book, and one that, once read, will never be forgotten.
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