Unions are joining hands with patient advocates in pressing the Obama administration to fund a survey of the healthcare benefits that businesses are providing their employees.

The wide-ranging coalition of about four dozen groups argues that the survey is crucial to ensuring Americans will be adequately covered by health plans under the new health reform law.

The law requires insurance plans to cover an "essential benefits package" that must first be defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. To assist HHS, the law calls on the Secretary of Labor to survey employers from across the country to determine the average level of benefits they provide. But Congress did not set aside any money to conduct the survey, and the groups are worried the resulting lack of data could stall the definition of a minimum standard of care.

"The data necessary to define the package may not be forthcoming unless the survey of employer-sponsored coverage mandated by the [health reform law] is funded and conducted in a timely and rigorous manner," the groups wrote in a letter to Nancy Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform.