We study the impact of modern stellar atmospheres that take into account the effects of stellar winds, departures from LTE and line blanketing ("CoStar models") on the ionization structure of HII regions. Results from a large grid of photoionization models are presented. Due to a flatter energy distribution in the HeI continuum, compared to the widely used Kurucz models, generally higher ionic ratios are obtained.
We find that N+/O+ and Ne++/O++ can be safely used as direct indicators of N/O and Ne/O abundance ratios in HII regions, over a wide range of astrophysical situations.
The roughly constant observed value of Ne++/O++ ionic ratios in Galactic HII regions is naturally reproduced by photoionization models using CoStar fluxes, while Kurucz models at solar metallicity fail to reproduce this behaviour. This gives support to ionizing fluxes from non-LTE atmospheres including stellar winds and line blanketing. However, we also point out that tests of stellar atmosphere models from observations of HII regions are hampered by a lack of strong constraints on the ionization parameter.