Why Medicare Advantage Plans are Bad by David W. Bynon

Right after my last post, I was injured, quite badly, in a fall. While I had read the title above, hubby had convinced me that Medicare Advantage was the way to go, because “we are healthy.” And, I was, until I broke my shoulder and damaged the nerves which traverse the Brachial Plexus. Within a month of my fall, I tested Medicare Advantage and soon found that I wish I had opted for traditional Medicare.

In Why Medicare Advantage Plans are Bad the author begins by explaining Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Even the name sounds good, right? They call it Medicare Advantage because there are certain perks, which vary depending on which insurance company provides coverage. For instance, mine has vision benefits, which I have used, and gym benefits, which I have not. This book also has a chapter explaining why the government actually prefers that people choose Medicare Advantage.

For those about to reach the age to file, this book, especially the opening chapters, would be most helpful. Also very helpful now (although I wasn’t concerned prior to my accident) is the 6th Chapter, which explains the downside of Medicare Advantage plans for those with chronic illness. The answer is quite simple: co-pays. As a holder of Medicare Advantage, I have to pay $25 (or more) every time I visit a healthcare facility. Right now I am seeing multiple therapists every week. Some days I pay $25 to the hand therapist, then walk to another therapist in the same complex and pay $25 again. Then I do it again a couple of days later. Medicare requires that medically necessary therapy be covered for unlimited visits. Medicare would not require those co-pays, however.

Perhaps I will get “better” although I have pretty much given up on being “well.” But, with multiple providers for everything from therapy to tests, this journey will be expensive. I wish I had read Bynon’s book before I signed up for Medicare Advantage. And, although I read this book, I probably wouldn’t have reviewed it if I had not become a victim of what a nurse in the ER described as a “life changing” event. I started out quite healthy, but that can change, and quickly.

For those who are just going down this path, this book is certainly worth reading.

Want a book? Check eBay before you check out!

My daughter and I have been using eBay as our “go to” bookstore lately. As an eBay seller, I’ll assure you that the fees are far less when selling used items, including books, on eBay. When selling via the big A marketplace, the fees start at about $4, and go up incrementally. Obviously, selling anything other than textbooks or other high end items on the big A marketplace is not worthwhile. However, eBay’s current fee structure is 12% for books, which means sellers can offer better prices to customers. Also, big A has a flat fee of $3.99 to ship a book, unless the seller offers “free” shipping. As USPS offers “media mail” rates for smaller books, the shipping can be cheaper via eBay. Win-win, right?

Here’s an example of a book that I have placed on the marketplace for a client; basically big A gets $6 of the $17 price:

Amazon fee

The fee for that book on eBay would be $2.04. The difference between selling via eBay vs big A is 23%, which is about $4 on a book that costs $17.

Let’s say you’re a bottom feeder looking for a deal. Here’s what happens with a $5.50 book listed via the big A marketplace:

Amazon fee 2

The sale price is $5.50 and the fee for selling it via the marketplace is $4.21, which means the seller gets $1.29. Not many sellers will opt for such a small amount, which is bound to drive up the prices of used mass market paperbacks and/or popular hardcovers. By the way, as of this post, this same book is available for $3.34 on eBay, while the lowest possible price on big A is $4.75. Clearly, bottom feeders need to go to eBay for book purchases. And, while there, check out all the other goods available, from electronics, to clothing, to collectibles— often at better prices than you’ll find anywhere other than the neighborhood yard sale.

One reason buyers flock to big A is the user reviews. Unfortunately, those reviews are not particularly reliable. Big A is purported to fighting this issue, whether banning reviews by customers who have not purchased the item being reviewed, or attempting to  control “paid” reviewers. Lately, the issue with reviews on big A is a problem with “hijacked” reviews, where in a product’s reviews are actually for a different product. Certainly, if you must read those reviews, really read them, and don’t be fooled by the number of stars highlighted. All in all, while there may be more variety available on big A, the prices are probably better on eBay.

As a matter of full disclosure, I sell on both big A and eBay. My eBay store is here:

The Alternative Article

One hand…the other hand…Amazon

handsWe’ve all heard the old saying that states it is not good when “one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing.” Basically, when an organization gets too big or too disconnected from itself, then there is at a minimum a loss of cooperation, and at worst, the organization works against itself.

A while back, I had to strip out all of the links to Amazon from this blog, due an email directive, and I have posted a screen shot of that message, which states plainly that I am no longer an Amazon Associate (a means of funding via promoting products.)

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 7.53.52 AM

Yesterday, I got another email from Amazon. It seems they no longer remember that my account was “terminated” and want help me sell their expletive deleted stuff.

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 7.54.04 AMHonestly, this is just on example of the problems at big A. Lots of articles have been published about problems there. The most troubling ones (for consumers) are the fake reviews and hijacked reviews.  I’ve mostly stopped shopping there, but hubby is addicted. However, the other day he was actually reading the reviews (and not just looking at the number of positive reviews) and realized that most of those reviews were not for the product he was wanting to buy. Fortunately, he didn’t buy from big A this time.

The bottom line is that Amazon is more and more a computerized “middle man” rather than a merchant, and buyers and sellers have little confidence that the platform is working for either side. Consumers should think about alternatives before using that one step purchase button. Sure, it is convenient, but it’s not good to get scammed.

As far as selling is concerned, lately, I’ve sold far more books via eBay than Amazon. More on that later.

Book selling for negative profit?

I’ve sold books online via Amazon (and I’ve listed on eBay also) for several years. Unless I got very, very lucky, I seldom made much money on those books. However, recently, I’ve seen negative profits. That’s right— the fees and postage are so high that Amazon is getting all the profit.

See this screen shot:

Amazon fees

Basically, the math isn’t in the seller’s favor here. For a $2.00 book sale, Amazon charged me $3.69 in fees, and for a $2.50 book sale, Amazon charged me $3.76. Even with the actual shipping cost being slightly less than the customer paid, I lost money, as I had to provide shipping materials and get the item to a post office. The only reason I got paid at all was the $6.56 book had a fee of $4.37. Sadly, since my state (Georgia) insists that Amazon collect sales tax on these used book sales, the buyer is not getting good value either. That book cost the buyer nearly $7, which is not a good deal for a used pamphlet.

Clearly, Amazon is not the best solution for book selling any more, so I removed all listings wherein the “fee” was as much or more than the book. Those will either be listed on eBay, or donated.

While I really love putting books into the hands of readers who will enjoy them, there is no sense in losing money to this relentless corporation.

26 Posts in the Trash

dollar signAnd lots and lots of links are gone. Five years’ worth of links to the 800 pound gorilla publishing company that recently declared war on my site. Oh, and I’ve just deleted half of the stuff in my shopping cart (the other half was placed by my hubby, who is more swayed by convenience than I am.) So… let’s see what new weirdness will be coming my way.

BTW, here’s a couple of emails I got recently regarding my “seller” account with the 800 pound gorilla. This April has been filled with foolishness.

On April 8 I got this lengthy missive. BTW, I sell books, not pesticides!

Dear Seller,

As part of our ongoing efforts to protect our customers and enhance the customer experience, we are updating the requirements to offer products that qualify as pesticides or pesticide devices. Pesticides and pesticide devices include a broad set of products, and it can be hard to identify which products qualify and why. You are offering, or have previously offered, products that are affected, including for example:

0967197929

To continue your current offers on affected products after June 7, 2019, you will need to complete a brief online training and pass the associated test. You will not be able to create new offers on any affected products until you receive approval. You are required to take the training and pass the test only once, even if you have offers on multiple products. This training will help you understand your obligations under EPA regulations as a seller of pesticides and pesticide devices.

To avoid interruption of your offers, you may either click this link to Seller Central to start the approval process using a sample ASIN: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/hz/approvalrequest/restrictions/approve?asin=B0002YP612, or request approval using any of your ASINs listed above.

Frequently asked questions:

1. Why am I receiving this message?
You are receiving this message because you are offering, or have previously offered, one or more pesticides or pesticide devices. EPA regulations define pesticides and pesticide devices to include a broad set of products, including many that you might not expect. For example, they can include:

• Ultraviolet lights;
• Air treatment units or filters;
• Water treatment units or filters;
• Sound generators;
• Insect traps; or
• Products that make pesticidal claims, such as “disinfects” or “sanitizes”.

For additional information, see EPA guidance on what a pesticide is: https://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides/what-pesticide and what a pesticide device is: https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/pesticide-devices-guide-consumers#2.

You can also see Amazon’s Pesticides and Pesticide Devices policy for more information: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/202115120.

2. What does this mean for me?
To create a new offer on any pesticide or pesticide device, or to avoid removal of your existing offers of these products after June 7, 2019, you must obtain approval by completing an online training and passing the associated test. You need to take the training and pass the test only once, even if you have offers on multiple products.

3. How do I seek approval to sell the affected products?
There are two ways to request approval. You can click on this link https://sellercentral.amazon.com/hz/approvalrequest/restrictions/approve?asin=B0002YP612  to start the approval process using a sample ASIN (you are under no obligation to list against this ASIN, but can use it to trigger an approval request).

Alternatively, you can use one of your affected products as follows:
• Login to Seller Central, click Inventory, and select Add a Product.
• Input one of your pesticide or pesticide device ASINs from the list provided above.
• In the search results, click the “Listing limitations apply” link next to the ASIN.
• Click the Request Approval button to start the approval process.

4. What does the approval process consist of?
You will be required to complete a brief online training and achieve a passing score of at least 80% on the associated test. Only U.S. sellers are permitted to request approval.

5. Can I still use FBA?
Effective June 7, 2019, only sellers approved to sell the affected products may send shipments of those products to fulfillment centers.

6. How will this affect my existing FBA inventory?
If you have remaining inventory of qualifying products in Amazon fulfillment centers, you can continue selling your remaining inventory until June 7, 2019. After June 7, you either need to (i) obtain approval to continue to sell the affected products or (ii) create a Removal Order for return or disposal of your remaining FBA inventory. For assistance creating a Removal Order, please visit our How to Create Removal Orders page: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200280650.

Thank you,
Amazon Services

Then on April 11, I received this email:

Dear Seller,

You recently received an email from us regarding listing requirements for pesticides and pesticide devices. Our email incorrectly stated that your offers on media products would be affected by these requirements. However, these requirements do not apply to media products such as books, video-games, DVDs, music, magazines, software, and videos. None of the products you are currently offering have been identified as pesticides or pesticide devices and no action is necessary to avoid removal of your current offers.

We apologize for any confusion caused to you by our email. If you have any further questions, please contact Selling Partner Support.

Regards,
Amazon Services

 

Okay….

Got this email today:

Effective in 7 days, Amazon is terminating your Associates account as well as the Operating Agreement that governs it.

Note that this communication is regarding only the account listed in the subject line of this email.

Why?
You haven’t referred any qualifying sales for more than 365 days.

What’s next?
You must stop using the Content and Amazon Marks and promptly remove all links to the Amazon site. You will be paid on the regular schedule for any outstanding fees that have accrued prior to this notice.

You are welcome to reapply at any time by visiting https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.

Thank you for your participation in the Amazon Associates Program.

Amazon.com

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in Amazon