Metavante Technologies Inc. said Thursday that it hopes to promote the use of health payment cards by building on a system developed by BenSoft Inc., a software provider it bought in January.

Metavante, a Milwaukee banking technology provider, said its updated product, called BenSoft, combines the older BenSoft RepayMe system with Metavante's payment card and processing offerings in a product that uses a single interface.

At the time of the January purchase, RepayMe had already been customized to work with Metavante accounts, but little else made them appear to be a combined offering.

"While we were integrated from a card perspective to BenSoft, we still arguably at that time had two separate systems that a consumer would look at in that environment," John Reynolds, the president of Metavante's health-care payment solutions division, said in an interview Thursday.

Using the old products, "I would have to look in one environment to see my card transaction history, … and there would be another system that would have more of the plan-specific information," he said.

The new system "brought them together, melted them together," he said. As a result, he said, Metavante's products for flexible spending accounts and other health accounts should become more appealing to consumers.

The improvements go well beyond the user interface, Mr. Reynolds said. "While it's easy to mask" the disparity between systems "for a consumer-facing application, in the back end, a lot of times, there are many inefficiencies that you're having to contend with there," he said. "We've eliminated that."

Typically, employers would have to work with separate vendors for each element of this environment, he said. By combining the technology into a single offering, Metavante is able to bring its price down and reduce the hassle of buying a payment card, he said.

"In the past, because of the separation of these different pieces, the decision about offering a card was one that sometimes was a little bit of a harder economic decision for some administrators to make," he said. "Now, effectively, we're taking that barrier down by including the card in the way that we price this."

The combined system is easier to manage and less expensive to buy into, he said, which in turn should improve consumer adoption of health payment cards. In addition, employers can eliminate the costs associated with the paperwork on health accounts by switching users to cards, he said.

"We had a running start with this" because of the integration work done before Metavante's purchase of the San Diego vendor, he said.

The updated BenSoft product was made available in July, Mr. Reynolds said, and Metavante has 25 to 30 customers using it today.

Brian Riley, a research director in the bank cards practice at TowerGroup, the independent Needham, Mass., research firm owned by MasterCard Inc., said that the systems set up for managing health accounts range widely in their usability but that Metavante has "been leading the pack" on improving its systems' usability.

It has good reason to be so aggressive, he noted. "The space is huge" in terms of "the potential transaction volume you can capture through it," he said.

"Adoption rates have been extremely low" for health payment cards because consumers generally do not understand how they work, Mr. Riley said. Even if they do, they may not understand the benefit of using a card and think the accounts too paper-intensive to bother with, he said.

"The human interface is what really drives" adoption, he said. "Metavante's done some really good work in that space."

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