One feature will let an employer assign an agent or broker to its account. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of HHS, File)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is adding a Web portal for the agents and brokers who help small employers sign up for coverage through HealthCare.gov, an HHS official says.

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) division at the HHS-run exchanges will also give small employers new Web features, according to Rhett Buttle. An employer can use the tools to set up a SHOP account, complete an eligibility application, obtain an eligibility determination, and upload an employee roster.

An employer will also be able to use a HealthCare.gov feature to assign an agent or broker to a SHOP account, Buttle says.

Buttle, director of private sector engagement at HHS, announced the site changes in a blog entry.

HHS supervises the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in all states and runs the PPACA exchanges in some. The new SHOP features will serve employers in the states in which HHS handles SHOP enrollment.

HHS plans to start by making the features available in Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Missouri in late October, Buttle says. The 2015 SHOP plan open enrollment period is supposed to start Nov. 15, 2014, and end Feb. 15, 2015. HHS hopes to make the new tools available to employers in all states with HHS-run SHOP exchanges in November, Buttle says.

SHOP plans are available in most of the country this year, but few SHOP enrollment websites work, and ordinary SHOP enrollment is believed to be low. HHS has not given SHOP enrollment figures in PPACA exchange enrollment reports. In March, Kathleen Sebelius, the former HHS secretary, testified at a House hearing on the program. She declined to give any details about SHOP enrollment or SHOP feature development.

Buttle came to HHS from the Washington office of Small Business Majority in May. He also has worked in the office of the president at George Washington University and in the office of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.