For a typical married couple at age 65, uninsured health care costs through the remainder of life will amount to around $189,000 – the accumulation of insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs and home health care based on a present value calculation. And that's the good news.

The bad news? A typical household faces a 5% chance that uninsured health care costs will exceed $295,000, and if nursing-home costs are included, as much as $516,000, according to a recent research analysis published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR).

That's well more than most couples can afford. Even at the peak of the stock market in 2007, the analysis points out, less than 15% of U.S. households had total financial resources of that amount, let alone money available for medical expenses.

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