This is a post from the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Program. Freelancers Union members get a discount of up to 10% on ASPCA Pet Health Insurance!

Working from home has many benefits, but admittedly, it can get lonely. Freelance Isolation is a real thing.

Luckily, the companionship offered by a dog or cat can be a great alternative. In fact, according to research from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), “people are happier and healthier in the presence of animals. Scientifically-documented benefits of the human-animal bond include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being.”

However, the decision to become a pet parent isn’t one to make without considering the costs. This is especially the case for freelancers, due to the often intermittent frequency of income.

The costs of pet parenting

When considering costs, veterinary care should be one of your top concerns. According to 2016-2017 data from the American Pet Products Association (APPA), the average cost for veterinary care for a dog is approximately $800 annually, and $600 for a cat.

In addition, these costs tend to increase year-to-year with improvements in technology and enhanced procedures. So, your pet is getting better treatment, but often at an increased cost. In fact, also according to the APPA, $15.9 billion was spent in the U.S. for veterinary services in 2016, and they are estimating this will increase to over $16.6 billion in 2017.

Luckily, there is a way to help cover these costs: pet health insurance. In fact, Freelancers Union members now have access to discounted pet health insurance from the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program.

What is pet health insurance?

The definitions and mechanics of pet health insurance vary from provider to provider, but generally speaking, it reimburses pet parents for veterinary costs. The amount of reimbursement can be impacted by things like deductible, coinsurance, annual limits and whether or not the procedure or condition is covered.

As a general rule, most policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions. This is why it’s so important to get insurance when the animal is young.

Also, pet health insurance is primarily a product for dogs and cats. However, some companies cover a wide range of animals, like horses and exotics.

Four Questions Pet Parents Should Consider

Before jumping into pet health insurance, do your research and keep these four questions in mind:

How Much Does The Plan Cost?

A pet insurance plan should give you the right amount of coverage at a price that fits your budget. Look for plans that offer options to customize your Annual Limit, Deductible and Reimbursement Percentage, which you might also know as co-insurance, so your plan is more affordable.

What Will Affect Your Reimbursements?

Avoid plans that limit payouts by using incident deductibles or exam fee exclusions.

How Much Experience Does the Provider Have?

The U.S. pet health insurance industry started four decades ago. When it comes to insurance, experience and reliability go hand-in-hand. Also, be sure to check ratings with the Better Business Bureau and A.M. Best, the world’s oldest insurance rating source.

What About Networks and Other Restrictions?

Does the provider require you to visit a “network,” or can you visit any licensed veterinarian, emergency clinic or specialist? Also, look for plans that don’t require you to have an exam to enroll or continue coverage. Additionally, what are the age restrictions and is there an upper age limit for senior pets.

Get the coverage your pet needs the way you want with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Use any vet or specialist, customize to fit your budget and needs, and submit claims online, by fax, or by email. Freelancers Union members save up to 10%, and save another 10% when enrolling multiple pets.

Scott Taylor is AVP, Partnerships, for ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. He develops and manages strategic partner accounts and sales groups, including the sale of the company’s pet health insurance plans across the U.S.