Seventeen states fall short on appeals processes, HHS says

The federal government might end up administering rules for appealing insurance companies' coverage denials in at least 17 states.

The healthcare reform law requires insurers to have in place certain protections that give consumers the ability to more easily file an appeal when their claims are denied. The Health and Human Services Department has said it will defer to state laws as long as they meet a set of minimum criteria established by state insurance commissioners.

Twenty-three states have external review laws that meet those criteria, according to a list HHS posted on its website Wednesday. Another 10 have similar laws in place, giving them until 2014 to tweak their standards. The remaining 17 states, as well as Washington, D.C., don't meet either standard, meaning insurers in those states have to use either an HHS-admininstered process or seek out an accredited third-party reviewer.

States have until Oct. 1 to argue that they're in the wrong category on HHS's list. And if they change their laws on external review, they can ask for a new determination at any time.