Fred Graefe, a lawyer and lobbyist for Protestant hospitals, cardiologists and medical equipment makers, just happened to be playing golf at Andrews Air Force Base in early September when congressional leaders and Bush administration officials were holding budget talks there. And when some of the negotiators went to the food market on the base, they just happened to bump into Graefe, who put in a word against proposals to cut Medicare reimbursements.

Graefe, who says his golfing handicap is "too high" and concedes that he plays at Andrews "not too often," called the course there "challenging."

Even when secluded at Andrews, lawmakers trying to cut the federal budget deficit were unable to escape lobbyists. And now that the negotiations have produced a proposed $500 billion deficit-reduction package, the lobbyists are rushing to Capitol Hill to make known more of their pent-up longings.

Lobbying is Washington's favorite sport, and the start of the regular budget-lobbying season has been delayed by the secrecy surrounding the budget talks up to this point. Now, with 16 days left for Congress to translate the budget accord into legislation, lobbyists are hoping they can alter multimillion-dollar details within the $1.2 trillion budget.

About half a dozen lobbyists loitered yesterday in the marble-floored hallway outside the private office of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), just off the House chamber, looking like well-dressed vagrants. They accosted passing Ways and Means members or aides, asking not for spare change but for inclusion or exclusion of items worth millions or billions of dollars to their clients.

The lobbyists think Democratic leaders have left some latitude to modify budget details. "There is going to be some commitment to the spirit of the agreement, but I don't think anybody anticipated that there would not be some possible minor variations in how the committees would carry out the agreement," House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said yesterday.

Nobody is sure just how much room that leaves to maneuver. Rep. Fortney H. "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees Medicare, said he intends to rewrite the Medicare provision. Graefe's interpretation: "These are macro numbers, global numbers. It will be up to the committees. The next three weeks are going to be ferocious."

The last few weeks have been pretty busy too. The tentative budget agreement reached Sunday contains many peculiarities and last-minute alterations.

For example, as the budget talks were drawing to a close Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), a veteran of the Senate Finance Committee, re-opened the question of a 10 percent luxury tax, which had been tentatively agreed upon the week before, participants said.

Dole, whose state includes the headquarters of both Beech Aircraft Corp. and Cessna Aircraft Co., got private aircraft dropped from the tax provision, they said. In return, Democratic negotiators won the exclusion of electronic equipment. In addition, the threshold for imposing the tax on private boats and yachts was lifted from $30,000 to $100,000.

The decision to exclude electronic equipment had an ironic twist. Less than 36 hours after the luxury tax was first proposed in the secret budget talks, Japanese electronic equipment makers had obtained a copy of the plan and met with their Washington lobbyists to figure out how to stop the measure. Their representatives wrote background papers that U.S. manufacturers used to lobby congressional leaders while the Japanese companies kept a low profile, according to a source involved in the lobbying effort.

With the help of the Japanese firms and their representatives, a "grass-roots" campaign was organized to get electronic equipment plant managers in the United States to call their congressional representatives. An opinion article was drafted for possible publication under the name of John Roach, chairman of Tandy. And Montgomery Ward wrote a letter to every budget negotiator saying a luxury tax on electronic equipment would hurt its business.

In the end, one Democratic negotiator who urged that the luxury tax exclude electronic equipment was House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), an advocate of many protectionist measures. Gephardt, whose district includes the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch Cos., is also credited with limiting an increase in the beer tax that is part of the budget agreement.

Other early lobbying efforts didn't turn out so well.

One of the biggest losers in the budget agreement is the life insurance industry, which is expected to pay $8 billion more in taxes over the next five years. Richard S. Schweiker, president of the American Council of Life Insurance, wrote President Bush a week before the agreement was announced, decrying the "enormous and potentially devastating" tax increase. He added a handwritten post script, "This is a really big hit . . . ."

Ironically, the idea for the new taxes originated with the industry itself, which suggested spreading out its costs for selling policies over 10 years in return for repeal of the current life insurance tax law. "They threw away the carrot {the repeal} and hit the industry with the stick," said ACLI spokesman Gene Grabowski.

The industry has decided to fight the proposed increase by asking insurance company agents and employes to write and call their representatives, Grabowski added.

Other industries hit hard by the budget deal aren't sure what they will do.

The hard-pressed nuclear industry is the target of $1.6 billion in increased costs under a provision that would increase fees it pays the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Mary Kenkel, spokeswoman for the Edison Electric Institute, said tax experts at the utility trade group think the proposal is "a bad precedent" because it would make the nuclear industry the only one to pay 100 percent of the cost of its regulation. "But being realistic, we think it will be very tough to get anything in or out of the package," she added.

John Maxson, director of government affairs for Commonwealth Edison, a Chicago-based firm with 12 nuclear power plants, more than any other utility, said the change will cost his company about $15 million. "We haven't decided whether to lobby against the provision," he said. Commonwealth Edison also is concerned about the gas tax increase because the utility has a fleet of 2,500 vehicles, he added.

Medicare cuts will cost doctors and hospitals $30 billion over the next five years, but a source involved in the budget talks said effective lobbying all year prevented that figure from being even higher. The final first-year reductions in hospital reimbursements were less than those first proposed in the Bush administration budget plan in January and were several hundred million less than what was planned right up to the final days of the talks.

Michael Bromberg, executive director of the Federation of American Health Systems, said it is "absurd" to suggest that hospitals fared well, but he added, "I don't think our chances are very good" for changing the package. If there is any spending restored to the Medicare program it will probably benefit the program's elderly and disabled beneficiaries. "There are 30 million elderly and only 600 hospital administrators," Bromberg said.

The heavily-subsidized ethanol industry came out a winner in the negotiations, thanks again to Dole. The agreement includes one line that said "incentives for ethanol will be modified and extended."

A Dole aide said the package of modifications hasn't been completed, but options include changing the existing 60 cents a gallon subsidy for the grain-fed fuel to benefit new and small producers more. The extension would be for at least five years, and hopefully until the year 2000, he added.

The ethanol market is dominated by Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., an Illinois firm headed by Dwayne Andreas, a key financial supporter of Dole's political and charitable causes. Congressional experts estimate that extending the tax credit will cost the Treasury about $250 million from 1993-95.

Another big winner in the budget deal is the domestic oil and gas producing industry. It won more than $3.5 billion in exploration and production incentives. Edwin Rothschild, energy specialist at Citizen Action, said that "at a time when crude oil price has doubled, it is no time to give the oil and gas industry tax breaks. They don't need any more incentives."

But with the president, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the secretary of state, the commerce secretary, and budget negotiator Rep. Bill Archer all coming from Texas, the industry doesn't need any lobbyists either.

Staff writers Charles R. Babcock, Spencer Rich and John E. Yang contributed to this report.