Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several large employer groups this week refused to sign on to funding requests they consider a "handout" for hospitals and insurers, according to three people close to the process.

The big picture: Coronavirus spending bills are sharpening tensions between the employers that fund a significant portion of the country's health care system and the hospitals, doctors and insurers that operate it.

Driving the news: The industry's most recent request — written primarily by the large hospital and health insurance lobbying groups — focused on a few items for the next coronavirus legislation.

  • Providing subsidies to maintain employer-sponsored insurance, which already receives a large tax break, as well as providing subsidies for COBRA for people who have lost their jobs. Some analysts predict 12 million to 35 million people will get thrown off their job-based coverage due to the pandemic.
  • Increasing subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans and creating a special ACA enrollment window.
  • Opposing the use of the industry's bailout funds to pay for uninsured COVID-19 patients at Medicare rates.

Between the lines: Employers know they get charged a lot more for health care services compared with public insurers, but many weren't keen about urging Congress to "set up a government program to pay commercial reimbursements," said an executive at a trade group that represents large corporations.

  • The demands "make perfect sense for hospitals who are trying to maximize their reimbursement and for insurance companies who are getting a cut when someone is in private insurance," said another employer group lobbyist. The sources asked not to be named to speak candidly.
  • Many employer groups still have a bad taste in their mouth after the industry torpedoed a fix to surprise medical bills last year.

The other side: Several health care groups that signed the letter dismissed the idea of any disagreement with employers.

  • "As far as I know, everyone is rowing in the same direction," said Chip Kahn, head of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals and is a prominent voice in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Go deeper: The coronavirus is exposing the holes in employer health insurance

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Updated 15 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced all domestic pandemic restrictions will be lifted in New Zealand from midnight Monday except in Auckland, where they'll be eased late Wednesday.

The big picture: Ardern delayed the country's election until Oct. 17 as authorities work to stamp out a coronavirus cluster in Auckland, after the re-emergence of COVID-19. There have been single-digit or zero domestic cases in NZ's most populous city since the government reintroduced restrictions.

Aug 7, 2020 - Health

Massachusetts pauses reopening after uptick in coronavirus cases

Gov. Charlie Baker at Boston MedFlight Headquarters on Aug. 4. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that the state's second phase of reopening is "postponed indefinitely" in response to a modest increase in coronavirus cases.

The big picture: The state is reporting more COVID-19 deaths than most others across the U.S. outside of domestic epicenters like California, or previous hotspots including New Jersey and New York, per a New York Times database.

Aug 7, 2020 - Health

Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases

A health worker in Nigeria checks students' temperatures on August 4. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekepei/AFP via Getty Images

African countries collectively surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases this week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why it matters: Some health experts believe that the true number of COVID-19 cases among African countries is higher than that figure due to a lack of testing, and fear that undetected cases could overload some of the world’s weakest health systems, according to AP.