US Rep. Clay Higgins, left, talks with La. Attorney General Jeff Landry during a groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of the LHC Group home office campus Friday, March 22, 2019, in Lafayette, La.

I’m picking up a little bit of defensiveness from Attorney General Jeff Landry when it comes to this whole protecting people with preexisting conditions thing. Could it be that he’s figured out, finally, that he’s on the wrong side of the fight that he chose to pick?

Landry eagerly signed Louisiana up as a plaintiff in an all-Republican federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, guarantees that people with prior or chronic conditions can get insurance without being charged exorbitant premiums. The challenge rests on the Republican tax bill’s deletion of a financial penalty for those who don’t carry insurance. Without that, GOP officials in 19 states argue, the whole law should be thrown out.

The suit is just the latest move in the party’s long-running drive to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s landmark 2010 law, which passed along a party-line Democratic vote. Its claim is legally questionable, many experts believe, but it has already been okayed by a district-level court in Texas, and President Donald Trump’s administration has taken the unusual step of announcing that it won’t defend the existing law in court. So all eyes will be on the federal appeals court in New Orleans when it hears the case, likely this summer.

In the meantime, something interesting has happened. Americans have made it abundantly clear that they support coverage for preexisting conditions, along with parents' ability to insure their young adult children and guaranteed coverage for essential benefits such as hospitalization, mental health and pregnancy.

And some of those who have been trying to get rid of the law that provides these things have attempted to reposition themselves as their most committed champions. Which brings us back to Landry.

Affordable Care Act backup bill pushed by AG Jeff Landry advanced by Senate

Both he and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards are backing efforts during the current legislative session to preserve preexisting condition coverage at the state level in the event that the Landry-backed suit succeeds.

That doesn’t mean they agree on the underlying issue. Edwards, in fact, vocally backs the existing law and has excoriated Landry for entering the lawsuit without even consulting him.

And it doesn’t mean they support the same bill. The Edwards-backed measure, introduced by state Rep. Chad Brown, has been sidelined, and the Landry-support bill by state Sen. Fred Mills has won Senate approval and is heading to the House. Both were temporarily stalled when lawmakers came to the belated conclusion that covering health care for those with preexisting conditions is costly, and that if the ACA disappears, there’s really no way to pay for it.

Stephanie Grace: On health care, Louisiana lawmakers have a 'nobody knew' moment

Landry and his allies returned with an amended proposal, and that’s the one moving through the process, which is more a function of the election-year partisan dynamic in the Legislature than the substance. It would give the state insurance commissioner the ability to study policies in other states, including a high-risk pool that was briefly in place in Maine, which analysts say may be promising but is no magic bullet. For one thing, it would still require an infusion of money, as even some lawmakers who voted for it acknowledged.

Yet to hear Landry tell it, he’s the one who’s out there fighting the good fight to protect Louisianans worried about losing their coverage. In a series of news releases, his office labeled Mills’ bill the “Landry legislation,” touted the bipartisan support it’s received so far and called on the House to follow the Senate’s lead and “put politics aside, and unify in this plan to protect our state’s patients.”

That’s pretty rich coming from the guy who’s waging an overtly political fight to put those protections at risk in the first place.

None of which means that lawmakers shouldn’t pass the Mills bill, or that Edwards shouldn’t sign it. At this point, it’s the most realistic way to try to salvage something should Landry and his allies invalidate the existing law. After all, there are real-world implications for the Louisianans who now get their insurance on the ACA marketplaces, and the larger number who now have employer-based insurance but could be affected should they someday need to buy individual policies.

But it does mean that there’s no scenario in which Landry gets to credibly claim to be their champion — no matter how many news releases he issues.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.